Music: To Pirate or Not to Pirate?

by Suzie Raven

Finally, there’s a website that offers a free and legal way to download music. We7.com, launched in May 2007, reached 1 million downloads and 100,000 registered users by the end of the year. Last week, it received a nomination in the Digital Achievement of the Year category for the Music Week 2008 Awards. A winner will be selected on April 3.

So, what’s the catch?

Subscribers simply listen to an advertisement of a few seconds in duration in order to get the song they want. It’s so simple, I’m surprised that a myriad of similar sites haven’t cropped up. After all, commercials support the radio and television industries and reduce the price that consumers pay for magazines. Why has it taken nearly a decade after the appearance of Napster for someone to run with this idea?

A short ad may not seem like a big deal, especially if it’s a few seconds, as opposed to the several minutes of interruptions we’re used to with television and radio. I’ll spend ten seconds before downloading a song if it means saving a dollar.

But, again, there’s a catch.

The ads are embedded into the beginning of the song, not part of the website or a pop-up ad. They stay with the track for at least four weeks, at which point the user has the option of keeping the song with or without the ad. Tough choice. An announcer’ voice might not be too annoying on the first track, but after that, the ads would kill the flow of the music. It would get more disruptive every time.

We7 promises to “help abolish piracy by making it no longer worthwhile to visit illegal and unsafe music and video websites.” It’s true, they seem to have come up with a solution where everyone wins. It’s an alternative for civic-minded music downloaders who don’t actually want to pay for music, but still believe the artists should get paid. Starving artists like The Kinks get paid for their music. The advertising business finds new ways to throw products in our faces. They even offer subscribers the option of downloading the song for free with the ad, or paying the 99 cents to get a clean version.

We7 has a clever, innovative idea that has obviously caught people’s attention. Still, most people will continue with downloading services such as Blubster that offer free, clean downloads. They would be better served to have the ads show up like a pop-up commercial before you download the song. It could be the music world’s version of thebreastcancersite, which is covered in ads. With every click, sponsors donate to breast cancer research. (Shameless plug: set this as your homepage. And then take the split second to click the pink button to raise money to fight breast cancer.)

We7 is on to something, for sure, but as long as people can get clean songs for free, they will.

(Photo by Paul Keleher via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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