Spiral Frog: Ad-Supported Music Comes Of Age, An In-depth Review

3/2009: Trying to figure out what happend to Spiral Frog? 
Read This Post at MusTech.Net:

http://mustech.net/2009/03/23/the-death-of-the-free-online-music

Orignal Post follows:

 Spiral Frog Logo

Spiral Frog provides an “almost free” online music service… 

The registration was quick, the download for the manager took 7 seconds, the active X install took 14 seconds, all the music you could ever want to listen to… PRICELESS -err…. AD-SUPPORTED.   Since it officially opened for business yesterday, Spiral Frog has become the new internet “buzz” and latest rage.  You can tell it has become popular because their current server speeds are less than “stellar” due to the large amounts of Internet traffic that is now being directed to them.  Navigation of their site has been slow lately…

After registering for free and logging-on , I noticed that I had 29 days left to ????  After clicking on the link, I found that in order to keep my membership active I will have to “answer a few easy questions” every 30 days to keep my membership.  This amounts to a hassle in my book and I guess I’ll see what that’s all about in 29 days…, onward.

The first advertising you will notice is the large banner ad placed across the top of the screen, the one I saw asked me if I was “having fun” yet.  Nope not yet.  Down the right side of the Spiral Frog web site is a rather large vertical advertisement. So far, these are easy to “tune” out (get the pun?).  These two advertisments constantly change every time you click a link on their page or wait long enough.

Upon searching for “miles davis” with their search tool, I was very disappointed to iniatilly see only two albums by him, Workin’ and Steamin’.  Further digging yielded a few more results for Miles.  When I pulled up one of the tracks and pressed play to stream it, I only received a preview of the track (no advertisements).  So, I choose to download it (it prompts you for a code to prevent unnecessary downloading of songs that doulc devour bandwidth by bots).  As far as I can tell you can’t actually stream the full song direct from the site, you have to download it.  Perhaps this limitation will change in time.

Upon entering the code, my “Spiral Frog” download manager kicked open and after a couple of minutes told me it had finished downloading.  I inspected the downloaded track.  Sure enough it downloaded a 128 kbps, wma file with encryption.  I was not able to get iTunes (PC version) to open and convert the file.  Sorry Mac guys!

As far as audio quality it’s an average mp3 at 128 kbps. Although it’s not a great quality it is good enough for casual listening, especially with an unimpressive pair of headphones or from a laptop.  As far as what licenses are you granted there are a number of restrictions and stipulations:

  • The right to play the file for one month from contact with their servers
  • Collaborative play for this file is not allowed
  • The file cannot be burned
  • The file can be synchronized 2 more times (with device that can play subscription files)
  • The media usage rights cannot be be backed up

These limitations are similar to those on services like Napster and Rhapsody there is not anything really new or different about these type of restrictions.  To give you an idea of what is offered, here is a list of the Top Names and Downloads so far:

  1. Gwen Stefani, Sweet Escape
  2. Plain White T’s, Hey There Delilah
  3. Rihanna, Umbrella
  4. Maroon 5, Makes Me Wonder
  5. The All-American Rejects, It Ends Tonight
  6. Fergie, Big Girls Don’t Cry
  7. Fall Out Boy, Dance, Dance
  8. U2, Where the Streets Have No Name
  9. Nelly Furtado, Maneater
  10. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody

When exploring the Genre tab the following categories of music become available for searching and exploration:

  1. Hip-Hop
  2. Rock
  3. Blues
  4. Electronica
  5. Jazz
  6. Latin
  7. World Music
  8. R&B
  9. Reggae
  10. Country
  11. Gospel
  12. New Age
  13. Vocal
  14. Cajun
  15. Avant-Garde
  16. Folk
  17. Blues
  18. Celtic
  19. Classical
  20. Comedy

Although Spiral Frog currently has over 800,000 tunes/videos available for download, comparatively speaking, it is on the low side of song offerings. Napster and Rhapsody offer over 3 million songs and Yahoo Music and Urge (Now joining with Rhapsody) offer over 2 million songs; iTune boasts over 6 million!  Spiral Frog is in 6th place, BUT it’s free . 

To be brutally honest, the ads found on Spiral Frog are no worse than you’ll see browsing the web and in many cases are less intrusive (i.e. easy to ignore).  Truthfully, I thought that there would be more ads and a lot more “click throughs”.  Spiral Frog is very easy to navigate and will, no doubt soon, pose a real problem for the other competitors. 

Once Spiral Frog acquires a close to equal amount of songs as it’s competitors it will be very hard for many to justify the expense of the others, regardless of the fact that it’s competitors allow for higher fidelity audio downloads and currently also offer services such as “radio stations” and others .   For many people, especially students it’s hard to justify $143.88+ per month when there is something as good as this to be had for “free”.  

Although Spiral Frog only has a deal with one major label (Universal), it hopes to continue to add smaller and regional labels (it has quite a few already) and continue to work out deals with the other big labels.  If it gets them, lookout!

In conclusion, I recommended Spiral Frog for anyone who does not currently have an online music provider and a definite “must check out” for those of you that have a major provider but don’t need to have every new release or particular artists.  If your tight on cash, this is a way to get back a hundred or so “bucks” to put back into your wallet.  For a “first of it’s kind” service, it’s definitely impressive and worth a look.

Find it here:
http://spiralfrog.com

          mustech.net

Hat-tip to James Frankel for reminding me that this new service came “alive” today.  Ribitt!

[tags] online music provider, spiral frog, free music, rhapsody, itunes, yahoo music, spiral frog review, review, napster, mustech.net [/tags]

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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