SpiralFrog has gained a great deal of media coverage today, even getting a mention on the 60-second news round-ups on BBC Radio 2 here in the UK. If nothing else, that tells you that today was something of a slow news day.
Among the many angles the non-tech media were taking was that this new launch was going to be a threat to the future of Apple’s iTunes. After looking at what’s promised to be on offer to far, I doubt it.
Dribs and drabs of information about the service have emerged in different news articles during the day. The first thing I heard was that it would offer “free” music funded by advertising, and immediately I was suspicious - just how, exactly, would this advertising manifest itself?
Banners on a web page? Nah - too easy to block, too easy to minimise the web page. Proprietary software needed to download or play this stuff? Something that cannot be minimised and displays ads while the songs are downloading or playing? Sounds awful, and would never be popular. Can’t be that. Audio ads appended to the beginnning or end of each song? No, surely not. That would just be a crazy idea.
Then I heard, from C|Net, that the service includes a hidden catch: “Users are required to go to the company’s Web site each month to validate their music, or else it expires.”
Wha? People who download from iTunes might well have to put up with proprietary technologies and DRM, but they own each song. They can keep it and listen to it, with a few limitations, forever. Subscription services that attempt to lock people in forever by asking them to “validate” songs they have already downloaded are simply not going to work, in my view. People don’t want that kind of hassle, they just want to download and listen and forget about maintenance. No-one wants to have to remember to maintain a music collection.
If SpiralFrog had been announced on a busier day for news, I doubt it would have made quite such an impression on the newsfeeds. As it stands and as reported, the offer sounds to me less than compelling and one that only makes listening to music more complicated. I think people are more inclined to go for the simpler option.
Me? I still buy CDs, and I plan to continue doing so for as long as I can.