August 29, 2006

SpiralFrog Arises [5:12 pm]

Will ad revenue be enough to support this approach? Universal Backs Free Music Rival to iTunes

A new online music company said today that it would make a huge catalog of songs from the world’s largest record company, the Universal Music Group, available for consumers to download free.

The company, called SpiralFrog, said its intention was to wean music fans, especially young people, away from illegal downloads and pirate music sites by offering a legitimate source that is supported by advertising instead of download fees.

Of course, there’s never a free lunch:

For consumers, SpiralFrog’s free downloads will come with many more strings attached than Apple’s paid ones do. Users of SpiralFrog will have to sit through advertisements, and will be prevented by special software from making copies of the songs they download or from sharing them with other people.

They will have to revisit the SpiralFrog web site monthly to keep access to the music they download. And the songs will be encoded in Microsoft’s WMA format, meaning they will not work on Apple iPod portable music players.

Later: The LATimes’ article, which is always so much more refreshingly upfront about record company attitudes — Universal Music to Offer Free Downloads - pdf

“If someone wants to buy a million CDs from us and then give them away on a street corner, that’s fine with us as long as we get paid,” said Larry Kenswil, a top digital-media executive at Universal Music.

The record company will receive an upfront payment from SpiralFrog and a portion of the company’s advertising revenue. “Anything that encourages people to get music from legitimate sources is a good thing.”

[...] But SpiralFrog’s success is far from guaranteed.

[...] Finally, there’s the question that cuts to the core of SpiralFrog’s business model: Will fans sit through a 90-second ad to get free music?

Later (Sep 06) — EMI publishing in downloads deal

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