It seems that despite that despite Apple’s seeming domination of the online music market there is no shortage of potential players prepared to step up to the plate and take on the iTunes brand at its own game. So far the opposition has met with what could be described as limited success. The success of iTunes has far seen of challenges from giants such as Microsoft and Coca Cola who recently abandoned their own music store and threw in their lot with Apple in a move reminiscent of Pepsi’s ‘music giveaway’ alliance with Apple in 2003.
The new challenge to iTunes supremacy however is a little bit different and as a result could very well be the first real threat to what many see as Apple’s monopoly of the digital music market. Rather than adapt the traditional fixed price sales model Sprialfrog.com has signed a deal with Universal Music to actually give away music free on their website.
There is of course a catch (well there would be wouldn’t there), the site intends to gain its revenue through the medium of advertising meaning that before a download actually begins the individual has to watch a 90 second advert before the download begins. A small price to pay you would think for a library of free music. Once you have obtained your music it will play on either a PC or MP3 player that is adorned with the PlayForSure logo.
This of course means one important player can’t come to the SpiralFrog party. The service will not function with either the Apple Macintosh platform or any version of the iPod. A potential fly in the ointment considering the market share that the diminutive player has secured against its opposition.
Saying that of course an alliance with Universal Music does mean a hell of a lot in terms of content. Universal functions like an umbrella for many subsidiary labels which means the artist roster is going to be nothing short of colossal for the target demographic (the site is aiming for the 13 to 34 market), big names in the pop industry such as U2, The Killers and Scissor Sisters are just three of the massive stable that Universal has acquired (and that’s before we even start to look at its ownership of historical big guns like Motown, Def Jam etc).
The big question regarding SpiralFrog is going to be whether it can draw enough advertising revenue to cover its upfront costs of actually purchasing the music it will then proceed to give away. And of course whether anyone is going to launch a music player that is going to be a credible threat to the iPod. At present there are no candidates on the table but apparently Microsoft has been touting its new Zune player (being made in conjunction with Toshiba) as something of an iPod killer with new features such as wifi connectivity for updating your playlists (interesting prospect) but as is rapidly becoming the way of Microsoft, shipping dates stretch like elastic so for now I’m not holding my breath.
SpiralFrog will be launching their service in December.