Freeform, the US startup launched by former Rhapsody/Google exec Tim Quirk and veteran strategist Bryan Calhoun, has launched its first six apps for musicians. They include an app for former Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas.

The company is aiming to go beyond the traditional cookie-cutter artist apps by taking inspiration from the mobile games market and its approach to freemium content.

“We’re shifting away from measuring by total number of units sold. It’s about ARPU: average revenue per user, or per fan in music’s case,” Quirk told Music Ally. “Games has figured this out: they’re living in an ARPU world and they’re experts at it.”

Freeform’s strategy involves making its clients’ apps free, and then getting them to unlock free music and other rewards by their actions, by signing up to offers from partners, or by paying.

“When I show labels the delta between the $14bn that the recorded music business is at, and the $120bn of games sales, I say ‘that’s all the missed opportunity’,” said Quirk.

Thomas’ app is a good example. “Here’s my new single. For a limited time, you can play it once a day for free. Want unlimited plays? Even better, want unlimited plays, a free mp3 of the single right now, AND a free mp3 of my upcoming album when it’s released? Just tap the Offer bar,” explains the app.

If they do that, the offers currently being shown include a free trial of magazine-subscriptions app Next Issue; redeeming a voucher at a Peet’s Coffee & Tea store; trialling Disney’s DVD and Blu-ray Movie Club; joining dating service; and a selection of other e-commerce and  and financial offers.

The theory here is that the money earned by Freeform / Thomas from these kinds of offers may prove to be more lucrative than actually selling the music – such is the competitive market for customer acquisition for these kinds of services and products.

Freeform’s other apps are for The Rebirth, Stic, Melissa Ferrick, Mr Fried Burger, and Quirk’s own band Wonderlick. We’ll have a full interview with Quirk and Calhoun for you in the coming days, explaining their strategy in more depth.

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