SpiralFrog, a new music download service, on Tuesday said it would make Vivendi’s Universal Music Group’s catalog available for free legal downloading in the United States and Canada.
The new advertising-supported service, due to launch later this year, joins the ranks of rivals battling for a piece of the digital music market in the shadow of Apple Computer Inc’s dominant iTunes music store.
New York-based SpiralFrog said it would offer users of its free, Web-based service the ability to legally download music of Universal’s roster, which includes U2, Gwen Stefani and The Roots.
“Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling,” SpiralFrog Chief Executive Robin Kent said in a statement.
Kent said SpiralFrog’s business model is based on sharing income from advertising with content partners like Universal.
The company’s research revealed that consumers are willing to “pay” for their content by watching non-intrusive, contextually-relevant, targeted advertising, Kent said.
The SpiralFrog Web site won’t be ready to serve tunes until December, but it will be interesting to see how they define non-intrusive. The record companies are very insistent on getting their money so SpiralFrog is going to have to ensure that the ads get watched.
Update: Some pertinent details from Louis Hau at Forbes:
There’s a catch, of course. Actually two of them: First, consumers won’t be able to burn songs downloaded from SpiralFrog onto a blank CD. More important, all downloads will be formatted in Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio, or WMA, format. That means they’ll be playable on virtually any portable music player except the one that matters most: Apple Computer’s market-dominating iPod.
Well, you’ll be able to play them on your Windows PC at least.
Update 8/30: More details from Marshall Kirkpatrick at TechCrunch:
Spiral Frog will offer a desktop downloader for Windows Media Files (no iPods!) that can be listened to on one PC and two portable devices. Here’s the kicker – you must log in to the Spiral Frog service at least once per month, and see their ads, or your files will stop playing! The details aren’t fully set in stone, but it will be something like that. There will be links to third party sites of the record labels’ choosing if you’d like to buy your freedom to at least skip the ads.
Sounds like the ads are getting more intrusive by the second.
Spiral Frog will also offer far more than just music, but also video and other digital content. The selling point here is that users will be able to access media legally, without the malware, bad network connections and pirate’s shame that comes from other online media sources.
Well, it’s a dream.