Commentary

SpiralFrog Shuts Down

The ad-supported music start-up once hailed as the next new thing, SpiralFrog, closed down this week.

The company arrived on the scene with great fanfare in 2007, touting itself as a means for consumers to get completely free and legitimate music downloads. News of SpiralFrog's shutdown was first reported by Cnet.

"Our competitor is piracy," SpiralFrog chairman and founder Joe Mohen said when the company launched. As it turned out, however, the company proved to have other rivals. Last September, MySpace debuted its own streaming music service -- which boasted of streaming 1 billion streams within weeks of its launch. Also, in January 2008, CBS-owned Last.fm began offering free music-on-demand streaming from all of the major labels and many independents.

And those aren't the only free music services. Search engines like SeeqPod that enable people to find and listen to tracks also sprung up. While the labels weren't happy -- and, in fact, Warner Music and EMI both sued SeeqPod -- the site is still online.

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Google's YouTube also carries music videos from three of the four major labels (Warner pulled its content late last year in a revenue dispute).

Yes, those services offer streams, not downloads -- but if you're going to listen on a computer, there's arguably not much difference.

Musicians themselves are also increasingly giving away downloads. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are among the most high-profile acts to make free tracks available, but they aren't the only ones.

Additionally, purchasing music became more attractive to some after Amazon began offering tracks without digital rights management software -- which can make it hard for consumers to copy music and/or play it on a variety of devices -- in the fall of 2007. By this January Apple, as well, said it would sell tracks without DRM on iTunes.

2 comments about "SpiralFrog Shuts Down".
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  1. robin kent, March 20, 2009 at 6:56 p.m.

    Just before my team and I left in December 2006 the future looked bright. The majority of people involved prior to my time as CEO (management & Board) needed replacing, but I felt with an adjustment to the business model and some new additions to the board we had a chance.

    The frog sadly wasn't ever going to be the poster child for ad supported music, therefore, it should not be used to judge the future success of other models.

    You mention there is arguably not much difference between streams and downloads if you're going to listen on a computer. The advantage of a download has to be in it's ability to be portable.

    The future success for a download service is in both it's global reach and the ability to deliver portability.

  2. robin kent, March 22, 2009 at 8:05 p.m.

    The next obvious question is will Mohen be called to question over the money he wasted and the lives he ruined?

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