in Links, Tech

Spiralfrog – free music, with a catch

I’ve been playing around quite a bit with Spiralfrog recently. They’re in closed beta at the moment, but I like what I see so far. The quick description is that Spiralfrog lets users download music legally for free. Now don’t get too excited, the music has Microsoft DRM built in 🙂

Right now the site has a partnership with EMI and a bunch of smaller music labels. So while selection is a bit limited, there are albums worth downloading. I’ve gotten albums from Snow Patrol, U2, Spoon, Maroon 5, Queen, Nine Inch Nails, and a bunch of others. You won’t find every band you’ve ever liked, but there’s probably something for everyone. And the music does play on any any “PlaysForSure” certified portable device (almost anything but an iPod qualifies these days).

In return for the freeness, Spiralfrog asks that you fill out a survey every 30 days to keep your downloaded music active. Music videos are also available.

My one major complaint is that the download process is very clunky. You can’t just queue up a bunch of tracks and walk away – it is necessary to click a button to download the next track after each one finishes. This is such an obvious problem that I feel like it has to be in place on purpose, but I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe I see more ads this way? I also experience periodic errors that cause a track to not download for no apparent reason. The only fix I’ve found is to wait a while and try again.

I also question the accuracy of the top downloads list. The same Gwen Stefani song has been stuck at #1 since I signed up three weeks ago, and I haven’t noticed any changes in the lower ranks either…

So, Spiralfrog is very much a beta product. But I find that I don’t mind DRM quite so much when my music is free.