I recently heard about a new music service called Spiral Frog (http://www.spiralfrog.com). They are offering free music downloads. My first visit to the site was interesting. Their music catalog is not bad (700,000 songs) and they do in fact give the music away free, but there is a catch!
Here is how their service works… You sign up for a free account, download their music download manager (IE and Firefox) and start browsing. The download manager becomes an embedded control in your browser window when visiting the site. The catch? Well the music is DRMMed and you have to use Windows Media Player 10 or 11 so it means Windows Vista or XP only. You cannot burn your music to a CD, although you can transfer it to up to 2 "Plays for Sure" portable players, sorry IPod and Zune owners! Next you have to renew your membership every 30 days (and from what understand) answer a short survey. The key here is they can tell their advertisers that x% of their users plan on buying a new car in the next 6 months.
Why is this important? Well it is related to the way their download manager works, which is I admit kind of a pain in the neck. When you are signed in at the site you select the music you want to download and add it to your download manager. To start your download you click on the download button, and for your first download you have to manually enter the code shown to start. Once the download has completed you have to click on the download next button for your next song. So you have to stay at the site till all of your downloads are done, although you can continue to browse their site. This is how they make their advertising dollars because the site becomes sticky and they get ad exposure.
There is some debate here as to whether people will like this or not. You don’t actually ever own the music and you can’t play it on the most popular portable players (Ipod and Zune). If they ever do go out of business then all of your downloaded music from them will also be unplayable. It will be a great way of downloading an album to see if you like it and if you do you could either buy the cd or buy it from another source (like ITunes).
All in all it, I think it is a great service, although it is slow and cumbersome to download from, but that is the cost you pay for the free music. Whether it will survive remains to be seen, especially since they are excluding the largest player segment. Alternatives right now for low cost music downloads are Emusic.com (limited selection though) and Itunes.
Update! Another PIA issue. If you sign out or close your browser while logged in and downloading, when you log back in your download queue will be gone. However if you leave your browser open overnight you can continue downloading later. S