Free music available, legally -- if fans don't mind the ads!
As Cannes once more welcomes the great and the good of the music industry, Audrey Stuart finds that good news is in the air for both music fans and the ailing recording industry
CANNES, France, January 28, 2008 - Good news is in the air for both music
fans and the world's ailing recording industry -- a growing number of legal
and free music Internet services are appearing offering vast numbers of songs,
as long as music lovers can take the accompanying advertisements.
New-York-based QTRAX was the latest to launch a global free and legal
ad-funded peer-to-per (P2P) music service Sunday at MIDEM, the world's largest
music trade event.
QTRAX is a paradigm-changing service that revolutionises the way fans
consume digital music, QTRAX president and CEO Allan Klepfisz told a packed
press conference on the opening day of the five-day MIDEM taking place on the
"We will provide a vastly better service than unauthorised sites with superior technology, alluring and vast content, and free music that won't get you arrested," Klepfisz promised.
If QTRAX's promises hold true, new, ad-supported music services could prove a boon to the global recording industry that is struggling to find ways of turning bits into bucks in a digital world that has ushered in rampant illegal music downloads and a deepening slump in CD sales.
EMI, one of the industry's four "majors" (with Universal, Sony-BMG and Warner), recently unveiled massive staff cutbacks and is also facing walk-outs by some of its biggest stars such as Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams, in protest against its failure to keep apace with the new digital music world.
But the powerful record industry looks to have changed its tune and is
backing emerging ad-funded online music aimed at digitally-savvy consumers
aged between 13 and 30 which also promise to direct revenue back to artists
and music rights holders.
QTRAX and the other legal, free P2P music services that include imeem,
which is France's Deezer, or Finland's Blyk, have the backing of the recording
industry for the first time.
They're able to offer legal music for free thanks to a slew of licensing agreements with the major labels as well as the publishers and even some leading independent labels.
Added to that, the new music download services say they can supply music
and videos free of the viruses that often plague illegal download sites like
LimeWire and provide better audio quality.
"We believe we have the killer application," co-founder of Rebel Digital
and QTRAX consultant, Laurence Ford, told AFP, adding that it took QTRAX three
years to negotiate copyright with the recording industry.
Artists have also been quick to throw their support behind the new P2P
service. "Artists that include stars like James Blunt love QTRAX and are very
supportive" as it means they will be paid, Ford added.
QTRAX's main advantage over most of its competitors is that it offers its
registered users some 25 million songs to download onto compatible music
players, a huge number that dwarfs the five million on offer on the leading
iTunes online music store.
IPod owners, however, won't be able to download free QTRAX tracks just yet
though CEO Klepfisz said the service should become compatible with the
ubiquitous iPod before long.
Many of the other legal, free P2P services are music and music video social
networking sites that don't all let fans download music.
Imeem, the fastest growing and fourth largest social networking site in the
USA, lets registered users stream songs and music video live from the Internet from artists and labels with whom it has copyright agreements as well as sharing favourite tracks with their friends.
If imeem is any example, the uptake of the new free services could be rapid.
Imeem, which is fully live in the USA and Canada and is growing
internationally, has pulled in 20 million users in just 20 months and is
gaining between 65,000 and 70,000 new users every day, said it's chief
marketing officer and head of business development Steve Jong.
Users can build their own playlists of favourite songs and video clips,
which they can then post on other websites.
But the whole legal free music scene could explode with big online players
such as video-sharing giant YouTube and huge social networking sites such as
Bebo and MySpace, which may muscle in on the act.