SpiralFrog, Universal Team for Free Music

SpiralFrog, a new digital music service, announced today that it plans to launch a music download service which will make Vivendi Universal‘s music catalog available for free, legal download in the United States and Canada. Universal is home to some of the world’s top-selling music acts, including Irish supergroup U2, as well as pop diva Gwen Stefani and “indie” sensation The Killers.

SpiralFrog expects to enter a beta phase by the end of 2006; according to SpiralFrog’s release, SpiralFrog will offer legal versions of music and video tracks from the Universal library at no cost, aiming to offer a simple alternative to pirate music sites and peer-to-peer networks carrying unauthorized versions of songs. SpiralFrog will earn its money—and, presumably, pay Universal and its artists—through an advertiser-based revenue sharing model.

SpiralFrog CEO Robin Kent, said in a statement: “Offering legally-authorized audio and video downloads in an advertising-supported environment works, as our business model is based on sharing our income streams from that advertising with our content partners like Universal.” According to Kent, SpiralFrog’s research found consumers are more than willing to “pay” for content by watching targeted advertising in an environment where ads area already part of the experience.

Just because SpiralFrog’s tracks will be free—or, at least, distributed without requiring monetary payment—doesn’t mean they will be unprotected. Although SpiralFrog has offered no details of its platform or technical requirements, the company’s statement does say that digital rights management technology will be built into all audio and video content as a means to combat piracy. “Digital rights protection will help us combat piracy and provide peace of mind for the record labels and the artists,” said Kent. At this point, it’s probably safe to assume SpiralFrog’s free offerings will utilize Windows Media DRM—and thus be incompatible with Apple’s market-dominating iPod media players.

SpiralFrog is targeting advertisers favorite demographic—18 to 34 year-olds.

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