25 million legal downloads, or not

Qtrax peer-to-peerYesterday morning a new peer-to-peer music downloading application was launched called Qtrax. The service was launched with the announcement that the company had negotiated licenses with all the major labels and would have over 25 million songs available for download, free to the consumer.

As we all know, it can’t be truly free. Someone has to pay for it so the artists, songwriters, and lables can continue to make music. Qtrax announced they had found a way to make this happen via advertising. Here’s how it would work.

You download their application to your PC. The application let’s you connect with other users and trade songs to your heart’s content, all the while looking at ads embedded in the application itself. The advertising revenue would allow the company to pay the license fees for each download, which they would be tracking.

When you download and play music, the support of advertisers allows Qtrax to compensate artists for their work. There is no cost to download and use the software, there are no hidden charges, or membership fees or per song costs.

The plan sounds good, and I think is a viable way to approach the distribution of music. Personally, I don’t think fans will be reluctant to embrace the service due to the advertising. A lack of compatibility with iPods will be a bigger hurdle in my mind, though the company has promised iPod compatibility by April.

The biggest problem though isn’t compatibility. It is that all four of the major labels (EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and Universal) deny having signed a deal with the company. So this catalog of 25 million songs, doesn’t exist, at least not yet.

Warner and Universal have stated that they are in negotiations with the company.

Qtrax has responded by insisting that they do have the support of the labels.

We do have industry agreements including the major labels. Even today we are working on more deals.

Saying that the “ink hadn’t dried” yet on some of the deals, the company vows to fulfill it’s promise of free downloads “within months.”

I guess all the music fans will have to wait and see if the dream of free, unlimited downloads will become a reality.

Read the initial announcement and the follow up story at TimesOnline.