Given the lively debate round here regarding the buying or renting of music, I thought it was only sensible to try out WE7, the new free music download service backed by none other than Peter Gabriel.
The gimmick is simple: you get your songs for free, in plain old MP3, but each one has a short audio advertisement before the music starts. That’s it.
To sign up, you have to tell them a few demographic details, clearly so they can try and target appropriate ads in your direction. They want to know your gender, your age, and precisely where you live.
Right now there’s not much to listen to, just a few promo tracks from the likes of Hall & Oates, Coolio, Bananarama (um, riiiight), and Dave Matthews.
So I picked a random song - “I’ll be around”, by Hall & Oates - and downloaded it. The advert was just a short blipvert for, um, WE7 itself, with the bizarre strapline: “Don’t steal it! WE7 it!” That last phrase is read out as “wee-seven it,” in case you were wondering how to pronounce “WE7”.
My honest first impression was “Euw.” The blipvert was intrusive, despite being so short, and did nothing to make me want to download more songs from WE7. And imagine a playlist made entirely of WE7-sourced songs, with an ad played between each and every one. That would be far worse than UK commercial radio, where ads tend to be at least 15 or 20 minutes apart, and that’s almost unbearable as it is.
It’s great to see innovation like this, and to see how smaller companies (although I say that knowing full well how successful Peter Gabriel’s business empire is, and how it is hardly a “small” company) might strive to stand up against the industry-crushing dominance that is Apple and the iTunes Store. But that said, I just can’t see The Kids rushing out to download ad-infested files like this. And those that do would not find it terribly hard to snip away the ads in an audio editor.