A brand new music file sharing service that will deliver over 30 million free songs is to be launched with the full blessing of the music industry.
Music fans around the world have had their dreams realised today as it was announced they will be able to download unlimited, free songs without breaking the law.
A revamped online file-sharing service has vowed to offer a catalogue of 30 million free songs that are compatible with iPods, and all with the blessing of major recording companies.
Qtrax, which makes its debut today, is the latest online music venture counting on the lure of free songs to draw in music fans.
The key to their revolutionary venture is advertising, which they hope will pay the bills, namely record company licensing fees.
The New York-based service was among several peer-to-peer file-sharing applications that emerged following the shutdown of Napster, the pioneer service that enabled millions to illegally copy songs stored in other computers.
Qtrax shut down after a few months following its 2002 launch to avoid potential legal trouble.
But now the company is working with four major record labels – Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group.
To take advantage of the free but legal service, the user will need to download the Qtrax software which displays adverts while the user is searching and downloading songs.
The site will feature special sections including one called “Last Night” where users can search for newly added tracks from live concerts that were recorded the night before.
It will also feature music videos, artist documentaries, interviews, album reviews and biographies among other features.
CD sales are falling and file-sharing companies are satisfying the demand for free music online
Qtrax is not the first service to offer free songs for download with advertising support.
Last September, SpiralFrog launched an ad-supported free service with music from just one of the major record companies Universal Music. It is still in talks with other labels.
The latest version of Qtrax still lets users tap into file-sharing networks to search for music, but downloads come with copy-protection technology known as digital-rights management, or DRM, to prevent users from burning copies to a CD and calculate how to share out advertising sales with labels.
Qtrax downloads can be stored indefinitely on PCs and transferred onto portable music players, however.
The service, which boasts a selection of up to 30 million tracks, also promises that its music downloads will be playable on Apple Inc.’s iPods and Macintosh computers as early as March.
iPods only playback unrestricted MP3 files or tracks with Apple’s proprietary version of DRM, dubbed FairPlay.
“We’ve had a technical breakthrough which enables us to put songs on an iPod without any interference from FairPlay,” said Allan Klepfisz, Qtrax’s president and chief executive.
Klepfisz declined to give specifics on how Qtrax will make its audio files compatible with Apple devices, but noted that “Apple has nothing to do with it.”
Apple has been resistant in the past to license FairPlay to other online music retailers.
That stance has effectively limited iPod users to loading up their players with tracks purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store, or MP3s ripped from CDs or bought from vendors such as eMusic or Amazon.com.
Rob Enderle, technology analyst at the San Jose-based Enderle Group, said he expects Apple would take steps to block Qtrax files from working on iPods.