Ex-Google, SoundExchange Execs Prepping Startup to Gamify Artists' Income

Tim Quirk and Bryan Calhoun's ties to the music and tech industries go deep – as does their new monetization scheme for artists.

Well-known digital music executives Tim Quirk and Bryan Calhoun have established a new technology company, Freeform Development Inc., dedicated to helping artists build audiences. Quirk, a veteran of Rhapsody and Google, and Calhoun, a longtime executive at SoundExchange and digital strategist for artist management firm The Blueprint Group, formally established Freeform last week, when it was officially incorporated.

Quirk stepped down in May from his most recent position as head of content programming at Google Play, where he helped launch music streaming service Google Play Music All Access. In an interview, he declined to say precisely what Freeform Development will do, citing competitive reasons, but hinted that it intends to apply monetization strategies gleaned from the mobile gaming business to a platform for artists.

Mobile gaming publishers, Quirk noted, have prospered compared to companies in other entertainment categories such as studios and book publishers by using data to convert free users to paid ones. He pointed to Candy Crush Saga, a $1.5 billion business, as an example of how a minority of users generated lucrative revenues for the game’s creators while the majority played for free.

In a recent update to his LinkedIn profile, Quirk described his new endeavor as follows: “Freeform is an application development platform that lets musicians and other digital media creators generate additional revenues by distributing their work much like free-to-play mobile games. By offering a ‘compelling enough’ version of their content for free, artists amass the largest possible audience for their work; Freeform’s platform then makes it fun and easy for consumers to unlock more and better content.”

Before joining Google in 2010, Quirk was a longtime editorial chief and vice president with Rhapsody, including a long stint while it was owned by RealNetworks. That Seattle-based company acquired Listen.com, Rhapsody’s original owner, where he was editorial director during the early 2000s. Quirk was also the frontman for Warner Bros. Records and Giant Records artist Too Much Joy, a college-radio favorite of the early 1990s. 

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A veteran of Relativity Records, Warlock Records, and RED Distribution in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Calhoun has a history that includes close ties to Kanye West. He was once chief operating officer of West’s GOOD Music label, and served as the artist’s new media strategist in the late 2000s, according to his own LinkedIn profile.  More recently, he spent nearly four years with SoundExchange as its VP of new media and external affairs, and his consultancy Label Management Systems LLC offers proprietary financial modeling software and other business tools for artists.

Listen.com founder Rob Reid is Freeform’s founding investor, Quirk said. It plans to raise a seed round eventually.


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