The iTunes model of moving individual music and videos files to users in return for small fees has become hard to beat. There's a new contender, however: SpiralFrog, which offers media downloads free of charge -- but with several strings attached.
According to press accounts, SpiralFrog's intended audience are those 20-somethings who have the inclination to spend a lot of time on the site researching music -- and, in the meantime, viewing advertising. In return, it offers what looks like a fairly wide range of free downloads from the Universal Music Group.
But wait, there's more.
First, this is a Windows-only service. I'm not sure why SpiralFrog's creators decided to bypass the many potential users who own Macs -- or the very many music lovers who own iPods -- but there it is. Then there's the fact that SpiralFrog uses DRM to regulate use of its content and won't let users burn downloaded music to a CD -- PCs or media players only, if you please. And then there's the monthly registration.
Once registered, you have to re-register each month in order to keep using the service. This process will involve answering "some questions about yourself" -- questions that, according to the site's FAQ, will be used to aggregate marketing information in order to increase advertising revenue.
You don't want to re-register? Your choice -- but 31 days later, you will no longer be able to download music, and 61 days later, any songs and videos you've already downloaded will no longer play. (Remember the DRM?)
It will be interesting to see how far SpiralFrog users will allow themselves to be pushed when it comes to the re-registration process. What if there are questions that you'd rather not answer? Having to do with, oh, say, how much you spend on entertainment? Or what books you like to read? Or what causes you espouse?
I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who will accept that this is an appropriate way for "providing the content creators with more cash for the songs and videos that you get to download at no cost." But how many consumers will be satisfied to jump through that many hoops in order to get their free music downloads? Enough to keep SpiralFrog alive? It's possible -- but I have my doubts.
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