I’ve been reading from British and American publications about a new, free, legal, music downloading via peer-to-peer software. The service, known as Qtrax, will reportedly have 25-million tracks (supposedly including rare songs and live recordings) that one can download-to-own for free from big labels such as EMI, Universal, and Warner (though as of this posting, it appears that these companies are denying having licensing deals with Qtrax, meaning that right now, no legal free music). So free, legal music may be just around the corner.
Of course there is a catch. You will have to download the Qtrax proprietary software (a “jukebox” browser, based off of Firefox) to play the Qtrax files (and your other MP3’s as well I take it). Said software will supposedly provide “nonintrusive” ads to pay for said music and will monitor and report on what songs you play so that they can then pay artists. Your iPod will not play Qtrax songs (for now at least). The DRM on the files will apparently prevent you from burning said songs to a CD though I can find no mention of their being blocked to other portable devices (I can’t discover if these are going to be MP3 files or something else). You will be reportedly be “encouraged” to dock you player every thirty days so that the spyware can report on what songs you are listening to.
It is about time that the music industry finally gets it (assuming the deals are eventually confirmed), after fighting this for what? Ten or more years? Hello! McFly! Find a way to give the consumers what they want and get paid for it rather than attack your customer base.
The Qtrax service is clearly going to be perfect for the high school, college, and other folks who don’t have much disposable income but want to hear music. You trade off some privacy and have to see some ads to get almost all the music you want. (I say almost because clearly if you are into Japanese music, this service isn’t going to help. And I doubt that Qtrax will have a rare track like “Nasty Rock” by Garrets Crew or “Jump, Stomp, and Twist” by Mo-Jo.) Providing you can score a portable player that will play Qtrax files and have access to a PC/laptop that the free software can be installed on, you are good to go.
For me and others like me, the service is going to be mostly a “no go” because frankly, I’m not interested in what I listen to be monitored and recorded to report back to Qtrax. I’m not interested in something that I can’t burn to a CD (but lets face it, should this thing actually get off the ground, there will be software to overcome this DRM). In my car, I have an MP3 CD player, and that’s what I use to listen to tunes. So I transfer MP3’s to CD’s just for that purpose alone (to say nothing of offline archiving of my MP3 files). Further, I want to listen to music without being forced to use a 3rd-party software to listen to it on my computer, so I’m willing to pay for a legal, DRM-free, MP3 file (say ~30-cents per track of a new, current song, ~15-cents per track of an older song).
Still, this may all be moot anyway. Qtrax was apparently another illegal P2P application until 2002, when they shut down to avoid being sued when the RIAA went after Napster. Now despite it being widely reported that they are back and will be offering free, legal downloads, the music industry is balking at this and Qtrax has a ton of egg in its face with “Big Music” laughing their butts off at Allan Klepfisz (the CEO and President of Qtrax), showing him who’s the boss around here.
I’m going to follow this to see what happens. Should this be a “go,” I’ll be interested in what the tech folks says for sure.