Universal Music and SpiralFrog to launch free ad-supported music service

Apple StoreSpiralFrog has signed an agreement with Universal Music Group (UMG) to make UMG’s extensive catalog available for legal downloading in the US and Canada via SpiralFrog’s advertising-supported service.

SpiralFrog will offer users of its no-cost web-based service the ability to legally download music from UMG’s artists.

“Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling,” said Robin Kent, SpiralFrog’s CEO, in the press release. “SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site.” Kent highlighted some key factors — 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 as among the primary benefits users will gain.

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. “We want to provide the best environment for everyone — our partners and the recording artists, as well as consumers,” Kent said in the press release. “Piracy continues to be one of the biggest issues facing the music industry where illegal file sharing and unauthorized CD burning are the prime means of music piracy. Digital rights protection will help us combat piracy and provide peace of mind for the record labels and the artists.”

For Universal Music Group and other record labels, the service will also be compelling, Kent said. “Offering legally-authorized audio and video downloads in an advertising-supported environment works, as our business model is based on sharing our income streams from that advertising with our content partners like Universal.”

Kent noted that 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. “Our target audience is the driving force behind the changes in how music is created, discovered and consumed,” Kent said. “They are the future of music. We believe SpiralFrog’s differentiated offering will be highly appealing to them as well as to content providers.”

SpiralFrog’s target audience is people between the ages of 13 and 34. Kent added, “This is the core audience we will attract by building a music-centric experience and destination that is second to none, legally delivering what the majority of users want — content they pay for only with their time. It’s content that advertisers are willing to pay for on their behalf.”

SpiralFrog will launch in beta later this year.

Interesting. There is no word on what DRM will be used, but we do know that Vesa Suomalainen, SpirlaFrog’s Chief Technology Officer, is a 12-year Microsoft Corporation vet where he held various positions including General Manager, Director Product Strategy, Director Business Development, Product Line Manager, and Senior Program Manager. He managed the Microsoft SNA Server development team from a concept through its 10th commercial version, renamed as Microsoft Host Integration Server.

[UPDATE: 2:50pm EDT: Troy Wolverton reports for TheStreet.com, “A source close to the company’s deal with Universal said that SpiralFrog also will likely rely on Windows Media.”]


  1. News for Spiral Frog: The “Young People” you are aiming at have iPods. If you don’t sell DRM free music, or iPod compatible DRM then your business will fail. Doesn’t matter how easy it is to use.

    For an example: Look how many college students have access to “free” Napster, and see how well that is doing.

  2. I wonder if this means that they will be attaching advertising to the downloads, since much more time is spent listening to the content that has been downloaded vs. the actual downloading process.

  3. The answer my friends, is that Apple have stitched up the pay for music online market.

    So, all they can do is chuck money at experimenting with other concepts in the hope they might find an alternative.

    Some hope.

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