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Universal to allow downloading its music for free

Written by Petteri Pyyny (Google+) @ 29 Aug 2006 4:23 User comments (36)

Universal to allow downloading its music for free World's largest record label, Vivendi's Universal Music has signed a deal with an upstart music download company SpiralFrog that allows consumers to download Universal's music for free.
SpiralFrog's business model is based on advertising revenue rather than charging for downloads. With Universal's music catalog available to the service, the company seems to be poised to challenge Apple's dominant position in legal music downloads. And, most of all, Universal is putting its hopes that by providing their music for free -- even with the ads -- would reduce the number of people using P2P networks to download music illegally.

Very little details about the service are revealed so far, and huge question marks loom over the service and its features. It is not known whether the service will allow user to really download the songs to their own computers where they could be transferred to portable audio players, or whether the songs need to be played using a specific web application or software.

According to SpiralFrog's website, the service should launch in December, 2006.

Source: FT

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36 user comments

129.8.2006 5:06

I wonder where the ads would be... On the website, the songs themselves or perhaps in the player?

229.8.2006 5:43

Wow! I doubt at first it will accutally do that much, but as soon as "word" catches on i can see this being popular! If you can download i dare say their would be a DRM on it which probably would be broken sooner or later. But i can see it reducing some P2P of music, not a lot though.

329.8.2006 6:12

I'm guessing the ads would be placed the same way they are in other P2P apps. Bottom right, maybe along the top like websites, etc. I doubt they'd put it in the songs themselves since that would just push people away from it. No one wants to hear a commercial between every song they play.

429.8.2006 7:21

I agree Venom5880, I wouldn't get anywhere near a service that dumps ads in the songs. I think it's likely they will end up putting ads in the songs. After all, ABC offered to watch Lost and other series over Internet for free, and despite their service having ads in the video, it became popular. Now I know that the same model can't be applied to music, but you'd be surprised how stupid the big corporations can be. It would be great if the ads were only on the web page, rather than the songs themselves, and even greater if we could use our own multimedia player to listen to them, even on Linux, and it would be really cool to be able to transfer the songs to portable MP3 players, but frankly, I'm a bit too pessimistic to believe that.

529.8.2006 7:34

If,and this is a big IF,this catches on this could be the start of something big. Other record labels might jump on this,if the technonlogy is user-friendly and doesn't have ads between songs,and so on. I say might because the RIAA is getting it's kicks suing every man woman and child possible for whatever $ they can

629.8.2006 8:06

maybe the ads will be at the end or begining of each song... if they put the ad in the middle of the song you might just record your radio to tape and then transfer it to the computer... short of that a legal place to down load songs is kewl this would be handy for all those who are being sued to say we if they had a bussness model like SpiralFrog then no one would do it for thought

729.8.2006 8:45

1st off, on paper its a great idea, but in the real world it will be littered with adds and they will pepper your mailbox with more targeted 1s about whoeva you have dl and there new cds. i hope they get the ballance right and stop tryin to blame it all on pirate cds as i dont think thats the root of the problem. i cant remmember the last cd i bought i just dont listen to them, between the internet, my dab radio and the fm 1 on my cellphone i dont need to as there is that many radio stations you can always find a song you like

829.8.2006 9:12

this is good :). People are finally realizing they cant make the internet their b7tch. It has a will of its own. And free is the flow.

929.8.2006 14:39

just as a side note.....if the songs were to be proprietory to their player, there are ways around it. I already use a similar program that my university pays for, and all students can download their player. Then just download the songs from their website and play it in their player. But I have software that can convert any audio played through the speakers into MP3 format, so I just play the song in their player, and set the software to capture it in mp3 format. Viola......I have fully portable music that can be encodeable to any desired format. This would be the same, just play the music and capture. Due to the ease of this, I would foresee it not actually being the music files just as delivered on a CD.

1029.8.2006 17:02

There's always a catch. Always.

1129.8.2006 17:43

In reference to comment by limelight. ditto

1229.8.2006 19:16

Taken from

I just confirmed that the files offered by SpiralFrog, the much-ballyhooed (today, at least) free, ad-supported online music service, will offer WMA files wrapped in Microsoft's PlaysforSure DRM.

The service will launch with songs from Universal Music Group in December, according to early reports. PlaysforSure DRM was cracked quite recently, and it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will be able to shore up that vulnerability by then.

Regardless, out of the 194 news stories listed by Google News, not a single one of them mentions which format the service would use, or how it would be protected – a pretty big oversight in my opinion, considering how serious the 'competing formats' obstacle is in online music right now (especially for companies such as SpiralFrog, which distribute music that won't play on iPods).
So with the recent announcement of the windows DRM cracking tool FairUse4WM who knows. I think any site offering free music regardless of DRM format should distribute the songs in mp3 format. Then you would reach a even bigger crowd than using a format that only plays on some devices.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 30 Aug 2006 @ 14:19

1329.8.2006 19:18

Taken from

SpiralFrog is a new online music destination, offering ad-supported legal downloads of audio and video content licensed from the catalogs of the world’s major and independent record labels.
So it looks like the people over at spiralfrog are offering up videos too!

1429.8.2006 21:29

*dies laughing* I dont think they get it.....and what wil do to people that edit and change to files to be OMG normal music files? idiots.....

1529.8.2006 21:39

ZIppyDSM: Thank-you for taking the words right off my keyboard!!! If anyone expects that this will come without a price of some sort, they are crazy!!! LOL to all who believe that this will happen without some price - weather it be legal or not!!!

1629.8.2006 21:41

you know they should get it over with and team with advertizers and such make web sites where all you have to do isregister its all free to you and me and we can downlaod all the music we want...but noooooo they want more and more money.....*sigh*
and when I mean free no copy protection no DRM a simple MP3 format you now to show faith that they are willing to change but sht......

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 29 Aug 2006 @ 21:44

1729.8.2006 23:08

this is stupid very stupid all some one has to do is disable the DRM protection and download the songs for totally free this is dumb

1830.8.2006 5:14

'times they are a-changing' i dont see anything wrong with the whole concept, i think its the way forward. In fact its the only way forward... because after that candian CEO saying last-week basically no one will be procecuted for downloading our music. says alot. I myself would rather download like this. So what if the format is wrong, its always never going to please everyone! i cant wait for the service. Though it saying its not going to be available in europe just yet ;-)

1930.8.2006 5:20

kepners :P well its bad but as good as they can do...

2030.8.2006 8:07

I have just downloaded Keanes Is it Any Wonder? from Under the iron sea from the pilot site. Basically those who suspected the advertising would ruin the music were right. You get 30 secs of song followed by advertising about Mcdonalds restuarants, then another 30 secs of music, the 2nd advert is for Nike, 3rd is for Walmart, you then get 1min music before you get an advert for Venapro Hemorrhoid herbal treatment. I actually enjoyed havinga break from listening to the song, and think it will soon catch on.

2130.8.2006 10:12

BigDK I do hope you meant that with sarcasm LMAO

2230.8.2006 10:14

Fiji5555 very....most songs are 2-5min long...a add every 30 secs...befor and after mabye just mabye but every 30 secs? ><

2330.8.2006 12:03

Fiji5555 Sorry I couldn't resist!

2430.8.2006 15:39

It is a step in the right way even if there are comercials. If they go through this I just may have to buy a cd again! It has been over 5 years since i have bought a cd. Thanks XM and internet radio!

2530.8.2006 17:28

I wonder why they would choose to partner with an "upstart" company rather than one that's been established? If this is a true effort to supplant iTunes and P2P, it's going to have to be pretty damned good or it will never work. Maybe even too large a feat for "The World's Largest Record Label?"

2631.8.2006 10:24

marsey99 (Newbie) 29 August 2006 12:45 Send private message to this user 1st off, on paper its a great idea, but in the real world it will be littered with adds and they will pepper your mailbox with more targeted 1s about whoeva you have dl and there new cds. i hope they get the ballance right and stop tryin to blame it all on pirate cds as i dont think thats the root of the problem. i cant remmember the last cd i bought i just dont listen to them, between the internet, my dab radio and the fm 1 on my cellphone i dont need to as there is that many radio stations you can always find a song you like
that's what Hotmail is for. i have a Hotmail account that is loaded with ads and i never log on to it.

2731.8.2006 11:11

And just as a sidenote: "SpiralFrog, a new online music download destination, has signed an agreement with Universal Music Group to make Universal’s extensive catalog available for legal downloading in the US and Canada." I think this is a legal thing. Nevertheless, if you don't live in North America, you can't enjoy this service. On the other hand, North America is where the people sued by RIAA mainly live. "Legal digital files with no viruses or spyware in a controlled client-server architecture, quick downloading, and quality songs and music videos by great artists are among the primary benefits users will gain." Basically this means DRM. But somehow I do think that the DRM does report to the server when a song is listened, either with just the intention of gathering data about what are popular songs or getting permission to play a track. Also known as spyware. "Digital rights management technology is built-in to all audio and video content as part of measures the company and its partners are actively taking to address piracy." Here we go. When oh when do they understand that DRM /increases/ piracy, rather than decreasing it? "The company’s research revealed that consumers are more than willing to 'pay' for their content by watching non-intrusive, contextually-relevant, targeted advertising in an online entertainment environment where advertising is already part of the overall experience." I didn't find any mentioning of the placement of the ads, but I got the idea that they are on the website. They are non-intrusive, so they shouldn't be in the music itself, and you shouldn't be forced to watch a TV ad in wmv format to download a file. Parts in quotes taken from Spiralfrog press release:

2831.8.2006 11:19

Finnisher another thought the ADs could be like vid or lows res pics on the MP3 and show in media palyers? altho meh I dout it more like what you said :P

2931.8.2006 20:22

good :)

301.9.2006 3:53

This almost seems like a case of "If you can't beat 'em, give into 'em and try to make them your best friend." An ad-supported website? Firefox+AdBlock. Ad-bracketed, DRM'd WMA files? Give it a week. Audio is a lot easier to decrypt than video. Especially if they try using any sort of pre-determined commercial method. It'd be decrypted faster than the Nazis could say Heil Hitler!(Reference about how easy the Nazi cryptography was, to crack. Every message from them during the war, had to have that in it, so it was just a matter of tracking down the pattern and applying the keycode to decrypt. The more you know, folks!)

312.9.2006 6:45

Oh, I am sure there will be a BIG catch. They may have a new technology so they will not 'give up the store'. Times are a-changing. The industries own research stated that biggest threat to CD sales are internet music services as well as the P2P. They can re-coup their 'losses' by going into the internet business. I bet they have figured out a new concept. Someone must be thinking that the $1 per song will only make so much money. That is a rip off. To really get rich they need to give the public a better deal. The volume and the nearly free distribution of the internet will make up the difference. I applaud what ever they do because it has to be a step in the right direction.

322.9.2006 17:12

Finally forward thinking management at a record label. Don't worry about the "catch". The advocates of P2P tell us that even though music can be downloaded illegally, the artist still recieves a RELATIONAL benefit, that is builds a relation with potential customers. Furthermore, this is a COMPLEX transaction (Bagozzi, some time in the 70's), that is the record label also recieves money from advertising. It wins on two levels - advertising revenue and relational value. We only win on one level - free music, which is only form a single label. (This IS the "catch") Advertisers win as well - they get their names out there. This service will be very popular. (Do I really need to explain why?) Therefore, the ads won't be horrendously invasive - it will cost a fortune just to have your banner displayed. The ads will propably be similar to what you see on Google or Yahoo if the service is web based or smilar to the Cydoor ad banners that you see(used to see) in KaZaA. How do I know this? I'm studying marketing this semester. This is basic marketing.

333.9.2006 23:04

Am I the only person who sees this as nothing more than a SLIGHT extension of normal commercial radio? The only difference is that everyone gets their "instant request" played immediately. How can you see this concept as being significantly different from a radio that lets you record a few Gig of your favorite songs, and then play them back when you want? You still get exposed to commercials (ads) on the radio - you just get to listen to YOUR music all the time. On the other hand, it's also a prime example of how the modern business model is evolving. To wit: you don't need to sell anything to the public to make money - you only need to ATTRACT the public, and then sell THEM to advertisers.

344.9.2006 1:13

Steve, this is different from radio. You are allowed to braodcast music, you can stream it as well, but you cannot offer it for free download with just a radio station lisence. I'm a board member of where we can stream any song we want, however we cannot podcast them or offer them for download. There is a legal distinction. Furthermore, it is a hassle to record internet radio, many people won't bother. Radio wave radio is not CD quality.

354.9.2006 7:17

Donuts I am suprised net radio is still functioning after the RIAA got done with it...

364.9.2006 15:37

lol Zippy, but I'm sure that liscenses require a healthy dose of money.

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