Remember back in early 2008 when an upstart outfit called Qtrax promised to offer music from all four major music distributors for free using an ad-supported, peer-to-peer distribution system? Turned out there was a small problem: Qtrax didn’t actually have agreements with any of the major labels, and despite protestations such deals were imminent, Qtrax managed to go down as one of the most-hyped flame-outs of 2008. The company managed to get Universal Music on board by mid-year, brought EMI and Sony on board (in June and December 2008, respectively), and now says it has inked an agreement with Warner Music Group, the final piece of the major-label puzzle.
"Warner Music Group continues to be a pioneer in the digital music space and we are thrilled to be able to announce our global licensing deal with them," said Qtrax President and CEO Allan Klepfisz, in a statement. "The Qtrax platform [..] incorporates a unique legal peer-to-peer experience that we strongly believe will compete favorably with illegal sites and will prove the ad supported model to be a viable and valuable alternative in the future monetizing of free music."
Qtrax works essentially by being a front-end to the Gnutella file sharing network—except that it wraps downloaded tracks in Microsoft WIndows DRM (Macs and iPod need not apply) and compensates artists and labels by selling advertising within the Qtrax player. Users can create and share playlists as well as access album art, reviews, and artist photos. The downloads are free and users can transfer downloaded songs to Windows Media-compatible portable players; however, tracks can’t be shared with people.
Qtrax says version 1.0 of their service is on track for a March 2009 launch.