SpiralFrog, Universal in free music download deal

SPoral Frog

The BBC is reporting that Universal Music, the world’s largest music company, has agreed to back a new venture that will allow consumers to download songs for free and instead rely on advertising for its revenues.

Available from a new music site called SpiralFrog, the deal will allow users in the USA and Canada to listen to Universal’s music, which Reuters’ news site reveals is paid for by targeted advertising, but no details of possible community or playlist sharing features of the SpiralFrog service.

The clueless, digital music business has been going through lots of growing pains over the last few years, but in the end, moving from closed, proprietery models, controlled by the supplier, to a free and open system where the consumer is in control is inevitable.  As with virtually everthing these days, the power has shifted to the consumer.  Digital piracy continues to flourish, despite high profile prosecutions from the RIAA, and the Russian music site AllofMP3.com continues to operate providing anything you want, DRM-free, at a fraction of iTunes costs. 

As Ryan Block over at Engadget said in his blog,

“It’s a step in the right direction, but what do you think the odds are that Universal is still going to require DRM even on free downloads? Now, DRM-free costless downloads with ads, that’s fine, but when is someone just going to offer what we really want: straight up DRM-free media downloads? We’re willing to freaking pay for it, you know? And we’re sure a lot of other people out there are willing to, as well.”

The iTunes model was a great innovation, bringing simplicity and legitimacy to the digital music business; however, the restrictions it imposes are not what the customer wants and, in the end, the customer always wins! 

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