Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Free, Legal Music Downloads, Few Strings Attached

From the “sometimes you really can get a free lunch” file: Here’s a free, legal way to download music, with barely any strings attached.

Said strings: You have to visit a certain brand’s Facebook page, “Like” their page or jump through a similar hoop, and then pick your songs from a limited assortment of freebies.

But if you find one you like, you can download it in MP3 format. And it’s yours forever, and you can play it anywhere, anytime you want, on any device. Even a Zune!

Zero cents for a song is a pretty good deal for music fans. The question is whether Free All Music, which is making this possible, can turn it into a business.

The two-year-old start-up has been moving slowly as it tries to figure that out. In a cheap-money go-go era for start-up funding, it has raised a mere $1.7 million. New CEO Habib Khoury, who replaces founder Richard Nailling, says his company is “en route” to a proper Series A.

On paper, at least, the business model is a simple mashup of two gambits we’ve seen before: Marketers who buy music and give it away for promotions, and marketers who reward Facebook users for “Liking” them.

In this case, Free All Music buys songs from labels like EMI Music and Universal Music Group at the same wholesale price that retailers like Apple and Amazon get — around 70 cents a song. Then it works with brands like Budweiser and American Express to give the songs away via their Facebook pages. Free All Music charges the brand a CPM of $5 to $8, and says that spread should allow it to make money.

Free All Music is still missing distribution deals with two of the big four labels — Sony and Warner Music Group — and even if it gets them, it won’t ever be a free music service that’s going to battle the Facebook giveaways currently underway via the likes of Spotify, MOG and Rdio. Those services give you unlimited music on demand, but only via streaming. Free All Music’s giveaways are one-offs, just like a bank giving away a toaster.

But much cooler than a toaster. Here’s the Jack White/Loretta Lynn song I downloaded gratis yesterday, in exchange for giving Budweiser a virtual thumbs-up.

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