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Qtrax: Free, ad-supported music

Starting today, legal file-sharing network Qtrax is opening up access to 25,000,000 free songs, all supported by relevant advertising (think Google ads). You'll need the Qtrax player to access the songs, which sadly is Windows only (Mac OS version to ship out on March 18th). This isn't the first time an ad-supported music model has given it a shot. SpiralFrog launched at the end of 2006. So far, they've had huge losses. The company who will sell advertising for Qtrax is actually founded by two ad execs who left SpiralFrog (says the NY Times). Qtrax's target audience are users of illegal file sharing networks. From the New York Times article:
Labels hope that the legitimacy and convenience of services like Qtrax will help them compete with unauthorized offerings. “We hope this service will draw from the illegal P-to-P sites,” said George White, senior vice president, Strategy and Product Development for Warner Music Group.
My projection: This won't catch on. Ad supported models rely on mass use. Qtrax downloads require the Qtrax player and won't work on an iPod. The first ad supported music that works will be wildly accessible, and the music will be just as easy to download and use as any given song from an illegal file-sharing network. Right now this model offers an enormous value proposition for the music industry, but not much for their target user. Dear music industry: you can't stop piracy from happening, but you can compete with it. It's up to you to be competitive. Update (1/29/08): I just read on TechCrunch that Qtrax pretty much botched the job (from "Qtrax really blows its launch"):
In what may be the dumbest business move of the year so far, Qtrax announced its free music download service this weekend before bothering to sign contracts with three of the four major labels. Now the music companies are saying, “Wait a second, there is no deal yet. We’re just talking to Qtrax.” Without the labels on board, there is no service.
C'est la vie.

Hey Whipple, Squeeze This Again

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