December 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

New Twist on Freemium: Music’s Free; Games Will Cost You

By now, you’re almost certainly familiar with the idea, if not the term, “freemium.” Spotify, with its free and premium versions, brought the concept to music in a way that took its competition by storm.

An artist app for the LA rock outfit Warren Charles takes a new approach to the freemium concept by offering up the band’s entire album, for free, in a nicely-designed “analog” tape player, a photo hunt game, liner notes/artwork, a “hand painted” player for watching the bands videos, web links, an artist biography, and other goodies.

For now, two additions here put the “mium” in “freemium,” for $2.

“The additional band content is the songs that play (you don’t have to be connected to the internet) while you engage with the three extra games, and there is a sound bite from the band’s previous album in the wedding game,” explained Josh Feldman of 504 Apps, formerly of Universal Music Group and TuneWiki. “We also plan to add more content such as new photos and exclusive tracks to the paid version in a free update.”

This is an interesting model for music: Sure, stream the album for free. You’re probably going to do that anyway, if you’re a fan of the band, on YouTube or Spotify. This app acknowledges that by including the album — yes, the whole album.

But if you want access to the extra games, you’ll need to upgrade to the full version or earn enough “WCnotes” (image to the left) which are the app’s own currency, to activate them. Interestingly, these games can be played offline, i.e. without an internet connection.

Warren Charles: Head in the Clouds (More Than Music), available on iOS for free or $2, probably won’t attract too many new fans, because you already need to be one of those in order to have any interest in an artist app, by their very nature.

But for casual or active fans, it looks promising, with liner notes that are fun to read, a nice design that mirrors the album cover (above), and uncut versions of every song on the album. And the app also offers something you can’t find on bit torrent, YouTube, or Spotify, in the form of these additional games, with their offline playback mode.

It’s an interesting model, to give the music streams away and try to recoup through videogames, local playback, and other extras, and we don’t think we’ve seen the last of it by any means.