According to this article, Universal Music is planning to launch a site that will offer free downloads and generate revenue via advertising. It’s called “Spiral Frog”, which I think is a great name – for a high-school kid’s web design business. Oops, sorry, it’s only the first paragraph and I’m already getting snarky. The placekeeper site they have up does have a nice clean faux-Web-2.0 look to it. Universal’s own website is strangely silent on the subject, as of right now anyway. The site is slated to launch in December 2006.
Clearly they’re going to be using some sort of DRM (though the article doesn’t indicate whose):
Customers will be able to download an unlimited number of Universal songs to their computer and one other device. They will not be able to transfer those songs onto a compact disc, and they must visit the site at least once a month to maintain access to their music.
I imagine the options for that “one other device” won’t include the iPod.
I think this could be a good development in the end. It will offer a bit of competition for iTMS, but clearly will be more of a pain in the ass, which may get people thinking more clearly about just how much DRM they are willing to put up with.