EMI licenses songs to new ad-supported site

EMI is the second big recording company to cut deal with FreeAllMusic.com, a start-up that thinks it can succeed with ad-supported music.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval

EMI Music has licensed music to ad-supported music service FreeAllMusic.com, becoming the second major label to partner with the start-up.

FreeAllMusic.com, which made the announcement Tuesday, is the latest company to support the offering of free songs to the public with ad sales. Most of the companies that have attempted this have failed, including SpiralFrog, Imeem, and Ruckus.

It must be noted that Pandora, an ad-supported music company, has recently logged a profitable quarter.

That said, FreeAllMusic is no Pandora. The company's business model more closely resembles SpiralFrog's, which also gave away downloads. SpiralFrog's songs, however, were wrapped in digital rights management.

According to a press release, FreeAllMusic says it will give users DRM-free MP3s that are paid for by advertisers. The only catch is that users must agree to watch "one brief video commercial" per download.

On the face of it, it doesn't sound like a bad consumer experience. Once a user watches an ad for a song, they don't need to watch another ever again.

For a while now, most ad-supported music services can't make enough from ads to cover the cost of music. Why would any advertiser give away music--which is certainly not being given away by the big recording companies--and pay large advertising rates for a one-time ad?

We've seen how tough it is to make high enough ad rates when services can advertise to users multiple times. I'm kind of shocked anyone would try this kind of model so soon after SpiralFrog's demise.