August 7, 2007 4:33 PM PDT

Ad-supported SpiralFrog finally launches music site

Earlier this year, SpiralFrog looked like a goner after infighting triggered an executive exodus.

But the company that made a splash last summer by promising to offer free, ad-supported music is finally ready to launch. Founder Joe Mohen confirmed on Tuesday to CNET that SpiralFrog has quietly invited a select number of users to test a beta version of the site.

Mohen said SpiralFrog will offer 700,000 songs at launch and be the first ad-supported site to offer video for download. He estimated that SpiralFrog will be ready for a public launch sometime before the end of the year.

"We're offering a high-quality music experience free to consumers and supported by advertisers," Mohen said. "We think the primary reason to use the site will be to discover new music."

SpiralFrog burst onto the music scene by presenting a possible solution to piracy. Music would be offered free to anyone willing to sit through some advertising. The pitch to users: no more worries about music-industry lawsuits or spyware.

Though the company had yet to launch or earn a penny, the media jumped all over the story.

But then SpiralFrog missed its December launch date. Soon after, CEO Robin Kent walked out following a rift with Mohen and the board. Kent's executive team soon followed, and to many observers, SpiralFrog's free-music model looked like a failed experiment.

Eight months later, Mohen said the site is ready to compete.

"Our competition is piracy," Mohen said. "This is going to be a new stream of revenue for record companies and artists and a legal alternative to LimeWire and other illegitimate sites."

The company plans to advertise to consumers in an unobtrusive way, Mohen said. Downloads take about 90 seconds, and during that time, users will see a range of content where ads will be included.

SpiralFrog users can play songs on their PCs or any Windows Media-compatible player, Mohen said. The site's music is not compatible with iPods, however.

Also, the site has a relatively small music library. Only Universal Music Group, the largest of the six top record labels, has agreed to a licensing deal with SpiralFrog. This means SpiralFrog is offering 700,000 songs while most of the top music services, such as Apple, Yahoo and Rhapsody, offer at least 2 million tracks.

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Strike 1:
"The site's music is not compatible with iPods, however."

Yes, let's make our awesome solution to piracy not work on the very popular platform legitimate music consumers seem to use more than anything else.

Strike 2:
"SpiralFrog users can play songs on their PCs or any Windows Media-compatible player, Mohen said."

Awesome. Now people can not pay for something they can already not pay for, except in a much less useful format!

Strike 3:
"This means SpiralFrog is offering 700,000 songs while most of the top music services, such as Apple, Yahoo and Rhapsody, offer at least 2 million tracks."

Oh, and the selection sucks, too!

This concept (ad-supported music downloads) is about a decade late, but still a good idea. Lose WMA in favor of plays-on-anything-including-those-very-popular-iPods, and we've got something worthwhile, even considereing "unobtrusive" ads and a mediocre selection. People _will_ jump at the opportunity to get actually _legal_ free music, but will scoff at being treated like criminals while 'going straight', so to speak.
Locking the music down in a DRM'd wrapper just means people would rather get "free" music the same way they're getting it now.
Posted by QMT (831 comments )
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Aye, Matey!
As a faithful follower of Napster and other unnamed "software," I welcome this site. Yeah, for now Universal is the only game in town. Rest assured that the others will climb onboard if this shows any sign of working.

As for the ads, isn't that where many of us were with free p2p sites years ago? If you wanted the free version of the software you had to put up with ads. It's free, it's legal and I don't mind telling you I'd sure like to take off this stupid itchy pirate's eye patch, pegleg and hook.

As for the file formats, you mean to tell me that there are members of the international pirates' club that still don't know how to convert between the many different ones? Switch to the diners' club - they like whine with their cheese.
Posted by drdoolittle2800 (17 comments )
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