Saturday, February 09, 2008

Free MP3s

I've posted before (nearly two years ago - grief!) on how I almost succumbed to the temptation to download cheap music from Russian MP3 site and subsequently mused on how we teach the ethics of behind this sort of thing. Well, Russian (and now Eastern European) sites continue to tempt. Posts on the Internet continue to insist that it's OK despite at least one of the major sites being shut down. And occasional news items surface about links to crime or the failure of these sites to pass on money to the artists... So I continue to avoid.

However, I was pleased this week to hear about a legal, free MP3 music download site. Will I say that again... a legal, free MP3 music download site... Oh, and no Digital Rights Management nonsense either. Huzzah!

How do they make money then and how do they pass on royalties to the artists? Simple - advertising. I'm not talking about the much hyped Qtrax here (which as far as I can see is still vapourware). No the service that's got me excited is We7 - stupid name, great idea. What they do is stick a short advert at the start of every track you download. Bit of a pain you might think but the really cool bit is that after 28 days, you can re-download an advert free version. A straight mp3 file - no adverts, no DRM, no problem. Brilliant!

The service has been going for a while, but somehow slipped under my radar. According to TechCrunch, although they are still in Beta, they have about 100,000 users who have downloaded over 1 million tracks. And icing on the cake is far as I'm concerned is the involvement of the genius that is Peter Gabriel.

So what's the catch? As far as I can see, there isn't one. Advertisers get to target adverts at specific groups of music lovers, artists (including loads of unsigned bands) get rewarded when people download their music and music fans get free music in exchange for listening to (very) short adverts for a few days. ...Well, perhaps a few problem. Downloads can be a bit slow and there is currently a fairly limited choice of artists - in particular, no Gabriel despite his involvement with the project (and I don't think any of his Real World label artists are their either). Also, at the moment, instead of CD Art , you get a We7 advert (although I guess that may go too when you download the ad free version). However, they are still in Beta and as a proof of concept, they've sold the concept to me. I hope they can sell it to artists and labels too!

To finish on the positive, despite the current limited choice, I've already downloaded over sixty tracks and I'm trying to stop myself from downloading more until I've spent some time listening to the first bundle. :-)

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Gareth said...

Hi David

My name is Gareth Reakes and I am CTO at We7. Many thanks for your support, we're glad you like the service.

We're a growing business that puts consumers and artists first so we always aim to listen to our users' feedback. You've raised some interesting points here and we're always looking to improve on our developing service. We have lots of exciting things planned over the next 6 months, so I hope you keep enjoying the downloads at We7.

David said...

Hey, impressive. Technorati is still playing up and once again it is ignoring some of my posts (including this one). I just checked, and this post doesn't show up on the first three results pages of a search for We7 on Google... and yet Gareth found me. Someone at We7 has done well to catch me. However, to put my cynical hat on for a moment, it does read likea generic comment - I wonder if someone is cutting and pasting on behalf of Gareth? :-)

Whatever... I'm still impressed they found me and left a comment... and I still hope they get this business model accepted and working.

Gareth said...

Hi David,

Its me copy and pasting on behalf of me :) I found you through the wonders of google alerts. Any more questions or comments please get in touch.


David said...

Hello Gareth

Not cut and paste then - just diligent. :-)