Spiral Frog Croaks, Burdened by Debt and Unproven Ad Model

Spiral Frog, one of the early entrees in the ad-supported music area, has ceased operations. The company’s Web site went dark yesterday evening and its assets forked over to creditors, according to CNET. During its fleeting three years in business, the company endured many problems, including unwilling labels, management in-fighting, and DRM problems. The killing blow may have been a $10 million debt burden it just couldn’t keep up with, details of which were reported by Digital Music News last month.

After making a splash in mid-2006 with a deal to distribute free, ad-supported music from Universal Music Group and EMI, Spiral Frog struggled to pick up additionally studio partners. It launched officially in September 2007, but faced wide skepticism in light of its incompatibility with Apple devices.

Did advertiser interest, or lack thereof, play a part in Spiral Frog’s failure? It’s likely. In an era where digital marketers are cutting their experimental ad buys, it’s arguably tough for any audio-based ad service to make the cut. Additionally, Spiral Frog is the second ad-supported music service to shut down recently. CNET noted a similar service, Ruckus, called it quits last month. Remaining in the market is QTrax, a peer-to-peer download service that’s still in beta. In light of the struggles faced by its competitors, one wonders when — or if — version 1.0 will come along.

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