Monday, January 28, 2008

Search, download and play over 25,000,000 songs ...

Qtrax Beta

Search, download and play over 25,000,000 songs ...

Free and Legal Music Downloads ...

P2P ...

The catch? There must be a catch. Spiral Frog has a catch. Log in and download what you want, if you can find it, then login again in 30 days or your songs won't play anymore ... on your MP3 player, on your computer. No Burning allowed.

No worries for Spiral Frog. Sort of. The P2P is hype in my opinion. They may use P2P like BitTorrent to share my downloaded copy with others, and to find black market copies to block, and white copies oddly on a "shared folder" to allow, but other than that connection, it seems rather um, advertising and an attack on the iTunes model by allowing five free plays and then pay for it or lose it. Spiral Frog is not that bold.

Read on the business model from a 2006 Primenews PR wire piece:

At launch Qtrax will provide fans with free, advertising-funded access to high-quality, high-fidelity digital music files, as well as the option to subscribe to a premium version of the service or to purchase music tracks and albums on an a la carte basis.

Qtrax will offer two tiers of service: the first is a free, advertising-supported tier designed to work with and filter copyrighted content from existing peer-to-peer networks. The second tier is a premium subscription service which will require a monthly fee. The two-tiered business model is intended to attract a broad base of consumers to try out the service, and then graduate those consumers to purchase music permanently or subscribe.

In the ad-supported, free tier, users will be able to search the network for specific tracks, and those tracks registered with Qtrax will be made available for download in Qtrax's proprietary ".mpq" file format. Users will then be able to play the downloaded .mpq file in full-fidelity sound quality for a pre-defined number of times. Each time a consumer plays a track, the Qtrax player will also offer fans click-to-buy purchase options, as well as the opportunity to upgrade to a premium subscription service for a flat monthly fee.

Now the NY Times cuts to the chase:

From the user’s perspective, Qtrax works much like any file-sharing program, and it will search the Gnutella network. But Qtrax will only display files that it has permission to play, then bring up relevant advertising, much as Google does for search terms. Although advertisers will not be able to have their messages appear with the name of only one particular artist, Mr. Klepfisz said that they would be able to buy “buckets” of a particular genre. Listeners will be able to hear songs a certain number of times — probably five in the case of most major label acts.
All of this brings into my mind a few things: Spiral Frog has no fears. Its a different service, using stocked files, and a different bargain made, with greater permanence to the downloads.

Qtrax uses the Gnutella network, the heretofore black market filesharing network, and that will mean a lot of tracks will not be high quality, as they are amateur conversions of the real thing, and will be marked as such to Qtrax users. It may mean though that Qtrax seeds the Gnutella network with good copies, usable in Qtrax, that pushes out the "bad" copies.

It likely also means that Qtrax will be a "honeypot" and an industry mechanism to kill files in your shared folders for otherwise use on the Gnutella network. Like what does happen to your collection of music you already have in that shared folder? Is it counted? Spoiled? Or evidence?

It not said what will happen to that information, in the hands of the RIAA members, through this intermediary.

To me, it feels like its a "honeypot," a server the "white hats" set up to attract the "black hats".

Who is wearing the white hat here is though tougher to say than if this was setup 8 years ago, before 28,000 RIAA pre-legal settlement letters were sent to alleged US filesharers. Using copyright law on non-professionals is just so gauche and bodacious.

P2P though is just as these folks have caught on, is not a substitute for a purchase of music. The fans will buy. Its for music lovers to taste, develop into fans, and then buy. Very much like radio did to develop mindshare, and then purchase.

Oddly, they are setting up a business model to do the same thing, except to better control the sampling of the artists' wares, like radio, and make a buck off it, expecting the same effect as the Industry Canada study shows exists, to make final sales. This is where Apple iTunes may finally have some competition in the digital sales it has made to date.

Professor Leibowitz may need to revisit his consulting for future work. This effort supports what Birgitte Andersen and Manon Frenz found. The industry is finally getting on board.

Update: Qtrax has no deals it claimed to have with the majors!

It "misrepresented ongoing negotiations and expired deals as official major label sign-off."

Read this. Ouch for them!

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