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Ad-Supported "Free" Music Plays On: SpiralFrog, Imeem, QTrax

[qi:005] As Apple (APPL) and Amazon (AMZN) duke it out in the MP3 price war, music publishers are still trying to figure out how to cash in on a crowd that will go to great lengths to get its music for free.

Imeem, a San Francisco-based music discovery startup, said it has signed a content agreement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment that gives users access to the Sony(SNE)-Bertelsmann joint venture’s digital catalog of music and video for ad-supported, “free” streaming of these files.

The company, which competes with Project Playlist, makes a customizable music playlist that can be embedded into MySpace and Facebook profiles. This is its second deal with a major label; it inked a similar partnership with Warner Music Group (WMG) earlier this summer.

SpiralFrog, which has a partnership with Vivendi’s (V) Universal Music Group, also offers free music downloads, but of course there’s a catch (actually there’s about 20 catches).

Launched earlier this month after lengthy delays, SpiralFrog makes money through site ads, and then splits these profits with the music publisher.

The good: Users have access to over 800,000 MP3s from popular and lesser-known artists available for free download.

The bad: To keep these files playable, the user needs to sign in to the site once every 30 days. Downloading takes about 90 seconds per song, and SpiralFrog forces users to download songs one at a time so the user stays on the site awhile and has time to view all of those lovely ads.

The really bad: While SpiralFrog supports portable players, it doesn’t support iTunes (or Macs at all, for that matter) at this time.

Meanwhile, LTDnetwork’s legal peer-to-peer (P2P) service QTrax, which has yet to launch, has already signed deals with Universal, Sony/ATV, Warner Music Group, The Orchard, EMI Music Publishing and EMI Music, TVT Records, Go Digital, ASCAP and BMI. They plan to make money through advertising in a P2P client that helps users find legal content.

14 Responses to “Ad-Supported "Free" Music Plays On: SpiralFrog, Imeem, QTrax”

  1. I have also discovered
    I much prefer the DRM free download to keep model rather than forced returns to the spiral site. Yes the catalogue is bigger at Spiral but I think the actual service and website is better! I also like being able to actually listen to my new free ad supported music on my ipod!

  2. I disagree with HedKandee. Project Playlist is more along the lines of Skreemr or Hpye machine, in that they search the web for hosted mp3 files. Imeem only operates within its own closed network. Two different approaches.

  3. A few problems here:

    Spiral Frog songs aren’t MP3, they’re PlaysForSure protected Windows Media files. That’s the reason why they won’t play on Macs or iPods, and also the reason why users have to visit Spiral Frog every 30 days to keep the songs active.

    Second, you’ve mistakenly stated that Amazon and Apple duking it out in an MP3 price war. The truth is that Apple doesn’t sell MP3’s at all. Apple’s DRM-free songs are sold in an AAC format. This is not just a matter of semantics. It’s an entirely different format.

    While it’s clear that you’re using the term MP3 as a generic term for all digital music downloads, it’s actually misleading to do so.

  4. Adena, I too think the techarazzi pays far too much attention to the “download paradigm”. I think you are spot on in recognizing the promise of Imeem’s streaming ad-rev model. In fact, I write all about the inevitability of said model in this here post, which I think you suspect you will find like-minded:

    And like you, I also spotlight imeem and project playlist in a list of companies ushering in said streaming ad-rev model. That entry, which I also think you’ll find worth your time, is here:

    Finally, I have reason to believe there might be another medium-sized but rising social network that might be unveiling a similar model soon. I would tell you the tip, if, you know, I didn’t have my own blog, ha! I will be posting about about my sneaking suspicions in the next few days.

  5. that’s actually the reality of free-ad music. I think it is still better to have them with us than deal with some high-priced music. entertaining such services come also with a responsibility to keep in touch with them and dealing with its lowest points.

  6. Matt Hendry

    Spiral frog isnt that bad and waiting 90 seconds is a no brainer while you have other tabs open and thier download app that sits in the tray notifies you that the download finished .