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SpiralFrog's free-music ambitions on hold 'til February

Free-music start-up SpiralFrog was supposed to open in late 2006 but has missed the targeted launch date, and is now hoping to debut in February.

Headquartered in New York, SpiralFrog's proposed business model generated headlines in August when the company announced it would distribute free music downloads and support itself through advertising. Universal Music Group signed on, as did some independent labels.

Conspicuously missing, however, were some of the other top record companies, such as EMI Music Group and Warner Music Group. Amy Levin, a SpiralFrog spokeswoman, declined to comment on whether those labels will be part of the company's offering.

When SpiralFrog finally opens, critics could punish the company if the music library is puny.

SpiralFrog's idea works like a subscription service, such as Napster or MTV's Urge. Users are required to go to the company's Web site each month to validate their music, or else it expires. SpiralFrog's music files won't be transferable to a CD, nor will they be compatible with Apple Computer's iPod.

This is not the first time a record label has teamed with an advertising-supported site. Last summer, EMI announced a deal with start-up Qtrax, which is also looking to provide free, ad-supported music. According to Forbes magazine, Qtrax is hoping to launch early this year.