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SpiralFrog – the future of music? Nah. 29 August, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in digital home.
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The choice for digital music fans has got wider again with the announcement by new entrant SpiralFrog that it will begin a free (ie ad-supported) music download service that will give users access to Vivendi’s Universal Music Group’s catalogue (if you are in North America that is). Universal is backing the new start-up and, as the world’s largest music company, should be able to offer a reasonable selection. And the magic word ‘free’ never hurts.

This is, of course, just the latest attempt to challenge iTunes’ dominance in the (legal) download market. But for me, it kind of misses the point.

The future isn’t about downloading. Sorry, it just isn’t. The sooner iTunes wannabes work that out, the better.

Rather than seeing the future as a version of the online music store (even if the products are free), a more interesting metaphor is the jukebox. Fast connections, widespread WiFi, bountiful cheap storage – it all adds up to the mother of all jukeboxes.

It’s not so difficult to picture the future scenario. I have a WiFi/WiMax/3G enabled player (at home, in the car, in my pocket) and a subscription account with an iTunes-like on-demand service. Then I simply pick and choose what to stream as my mood takes me. It’s not rocket surgery.

Some services (eg Rhapsody) are already heading off in this direction. What’s currently lacking is uniform WiFi coverage (although in many countries, 3G appears to offer an interesting option). Once that’s in place, why would I want to download music (free or otherwise)?

Sources: Reuters, BBC, Jupiter and a whole bunch of others.

UPDATE: take a look at MP3tunes for something a little more interesting.

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