SpiralFrog: Free Music, with Ads

It’s been gestating for well over a year, but today the free, ad-supported music service SpiralFrog opened its doors to the public after a length beta period. SpiralFrog wants to be a music service that competes with the likes of Napster, Yahoo, RealNetworks, and (of course) iTunes, and it does have the attractive prospect of offering over 800,000 music tracks and 3,500 videos for free: no downloading fees. However, the media is still burdened with Windows DRM software (which means Linux and Mac users—and iPod owners—don’t get to play. And the music is free because SpiralFrog is supported by advertising.

The SpiralFrog Web site enables users to search for and discover music from both new and established artists; users will also be able to share favorite tracks and artists with friends and receive dynamic search results based on their own preferences and other users’ activity. SpiralFrog wants to be a site where users both discover and download new music—and also target users with "relevant" advertising which "does not interfere with their enjoyment of music."

"SpiralFrog will integrate advertising in a compelling way, so that we enrich the overall user experience while becoming a must-have channel for advertisers," said George Hayes, SpiralFrog’s senior VP of marketing and sales, in a statement. "The more we can make the advertising relevant to users’ tastes and demands through tailor-made programs and micro-targeting, the more potential we create for a meaningful experience."

Songs and videos downloaded from SpiralFrog are compatible with Windows XP and Vista; permissions embedded in the files enable users to sync the media to two portable music players or music-enabled phones that support Windows DRM. The digital rights management software is intended to prevent online piracy: while SpiralFrog might be offering the media for free, it is not free to share amongst several thousand of your closest online friends: if they want their own copies, they’ll have to go to SpiralFrog—and, in turn, be exposed to "relevant" targeted advertising. If users want their free tracks to keep working, they need to log into the side at least once a month; otherwise, the tracks disable themselves and cannot be played.

SpiralFrog asks uses for age, gender, and ZIP code when they sign up for the service; SpiralFrog says the information is used to target advertising.

Right now, many of the tracks available on SpiralFrog are from Universal Music Group, although the company inked a deal with EMI last year which may enable the service to expand its catalog. Several independent labels are also on board with SpiralFrog.

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