SpiralFrog to Offer Ad-Supported Music Downloads

Universal Music Group has thrown its backing behind ad-supported music download service SpiralFrog.

The new service, headed by former Universal McCann CEO Robin Kent, is set to launch at the end of the year. It will offer rights-managed music downloads for free, with accompanying advertising. Ad revenue will be shared with the music labels.

UMG is the first studio to sign up, but the company is reportedly in talks with Warner, EMI, Sony-BMG and others.

Besides the inherent value in offering a legal free download service, the company says a superiority in service quality to pirated music sites will draw users. Benefits include faster downloads, virus-free files, and a broad library, Kent, SpiralFrog’s CEO, said in a statement.

Many users may balk at the extensive digital rights management (DRM) attached to the songs. Among other limitations, users will not be able to make copies or share the songs they download, according to reports. Those same DRM restrictions may make the service an attractive partner for music labels looking for an alternative to the pay-per-song model of iTunes or the subscription models of Yahoo Music or MTV’s Urge.

“Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling,” Kent said. “SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site.”

According to Kent, SpiralFrog has conducted research showing consumers are willing to watch ads in exchange for downloads, particularly if those ads are contextually relevant and non-intrusive. The 13-to-34 demographic that SpiralFrog is targeting is an attractive one for advertisers.

It will be a challenge for SpiralFrog to integrate advertising into the content in a relevant way, to add value for users and avoid message clutter, according to Andrew McLean, chief client officer global at Mediaedge:cia. “Companies like SpiralFrog offer a more direct engagement opportunity and have the potential to be of value to consumers and, as a result, our clients,” he said.

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