In a move to challenge the supremacy of iTunes in the music download business, Universal Music Group has decided to back SpiralFrog. According to the Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times the New York based SpinalFrog will open a music download website where advertising dollars, and not purchase dollars, will pay the fees for downloaded music. You and I will be able to download the Universal Music Group artists we enjoy while Perry Ellis and Levi's Jeans will pay the bill.
Downloading songs will require the "purchaser" to view a 90 second advertisement before the actual download begins, viewing a 120 second ad will be required for video downloads, which will have the effect of increasing the effective download time. According to the "Times," SpiralFrog believes that young purchasers will be willing to wait the few extra moments for free and legal downloads.
One can only speculate whether young purchasers will be willing to leave P2P networks where music is available free with no wait, but the success of iTunes leads one to believe that the model may work well.
One thing is certain, the SpiralFrog/UMG alliance will provide a market test for the viability of the internet as an advertising funded vehicle. Currently radio and broadcast television are funded primarily through advertising, consumers will have to wait to see if the internet follow their model or whether the future is more like cable where advertising is a part of the picture and subscription fees are the other part of the equation.
If the commercials are entertaining, maybe Ricky Gervais or Dr. Z entertaining, I think I might just be willing to wait 90 seconds. Waiting until December when they start the service will be the harder trial.