EMI Music Publishing is announcing tonight that they are partnering with New York startup SpiralFrog to distribute music for free download. SpiralFrog hit the news late last month with their groundbreaking partnership with Universal to distribute music for free (see our coverage for more details). Universal appears set to buy BMG (the non Sony half of Sony-BMG) for roughly $2 billion in the next few days, so offerings through SpiralFrog could really explode. Major label music could be available to download for free, with ad support, as a general phenomenon before we know it.
The (big) downside here is that the music at SpiralFrog will be wrapped in strange DRM that requires regular logging in the the ad driven SpiralFrog service in order for the music files to continue playing. Standard DRM of limited devices, copies and Windows only applies as well. Some people say it’s still a big step because it’s free music, I (and others) question the technical coercion and wish there was some better way to do it.
EMI calls itself the largest music catalogue in the world and currently carries stars like Sting, Nelly Furtado, Jay Z and Kanye West. Sounds great for a party, just don’t forget to watch the obligatory ads before you expect to hit the dance floor.
The press release emphasizes the superior quality of SpiralFrog downloads, compared to the incomplete albums, low quality files and malware of the dark underworld of music piracy. I can’t help but think that many users would visit SpiralFrog regularly and view the advertisements just to get new free music, without being forced to do so in order for their downloaded files to work. That’s just creepy. Creepy or not, though, things are changing.