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The Costs of Higher Education

Posted in ad supported, Blog, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog with tags , on August 3, 2009 by David

"He so downloaded like six Daughtry songs."
There will probably be more from Allan shortly (hmmm…that seems vague). In the meantime (which is a good song by Spacehog–go ahead, indulge: Song/video), I’ll post this short note on the heels of another massive verdict in the ongoing litigation against illegal file sharing. Here’s the quick story taken from Ars Technica:

After just 3 hours of deliberation, the jury in the RIAA vs. Joel Tenebaum has ordered the student to pay $675,000 in damages or $22,500 for each of the 30 songs that he downloaded.

When asked about the size verdict, Tenenbaum’s attorney and Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson told Ars that “it’s a bankrupting award.” Nesson believed that the outcome might have been different if he had been allowed to argue Fair Use. “We were not allowed to speak to fairness,” he told Ars. “I thought we had pretty damn good arguments on Fair Use.”

Tenebaum said that we would probably declare bankrupcy if the award were not overturned.

Combine this with the $1 million + verdict against the single mom from Minnesota and it’s pretty easy to see who has got both the law and the powerful lawyers on their side. Joel got some Harvard law professor to represent him. Please. Lord, what fools these mortals be.(B.S.)

Yet in this brave new world of internet bravado, a mere public flogging or two (although well within their rights) is not going to endear the record industry to it’s consumers nor is it going to derail the juggernaut that is illegal file sharing. So what’s the point? IMO it’s to prove a point. A point that has dogged the record industry for the past 10 years. One that’s been been challenged by a new distribution method and a generation of users who assume music is free. It’s not. Not quite yet anyway.

Here’s my advice to anyone who gets a file sharing ticket while speeding around the internet. Pay it. Going to court is a bad idea.

On another note, here’s a link to one of the funniest articles I’ve read in a long time. This came out last week, but it should be added to the dictionary as the example listed under “irony.” Enjoy: Limewire Pizza Party.

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The Week That Was

Posted in ad supported, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog with tags on July 29, 2009 by David

…another note from CEO Allan Klepfisz

Well here I am on another plane- different seat, different airline, different food, same ocean- Pacific that is- but racing back the other way- to the Orient. Didn’t get a chance to unpack my travel bag- literally- or to unwind at all, for that matter. Though it’s been a great number of months since I’ve done that. But it was good to be back in NYC & quite a bit got accomplished. It feels great to be at your office desk not to mention sleeping in your bed for a few hours here & there. But those delights are necessarily fleeting for the moment as there’s so much to be done- after all, we’ve got to get this thing damn well launched. ASAP. It’s excruciating to wait a moment more than necessary. But more on that later.

The highs & lows of our weeks somehow get more extreme. The highs were numerous in this past week: Meeting several industry execs who independently were exceptionally supportive and actually “got it” completely. I think understood clearly how we were going to be radically different to all existing propositions. Not only the first free & legal music download service with major & indie support and global licenses. But also a service getting out to the world and creating marketing relationships with the biggest & best of search, internet & media companies. And understanding how to maximize ad revenues.

And there were the large number of private messages and quite a few blog postings that gave me immense encouragement after my inaugural blog. For which I thank you all, greatly. It isn’t an easy journey, sometimes. Not that I have an inclination (or right for that matter) to complain. And although it has a ton of uplifting moments, it also has those very low moments- brought about by the “usual suspects”: personal poverty, extreme sleep deprivation, broken promises, delays in funding, encounters with dishonesty, ill-intent & greed, etc. But a good word from a good person has a way of making those occasional low moments, vanish instantly. Not that they hang around for long, anyway. But I am absolutely buoyed by those that wish us well in our soon-to-be-a-reality mission. And as for the others- well, of course, my knee-jerk reaction is to tell them to f*** off. But let me rather provide you with a more balanced view of them.

I don’t spend a lot of time reading the blogs on Qtrax. But occasionally I do. Or some understandably irate supporter brings something to my attention. It is at the very least interesting, to be a bystander to an intermittently raging debate, as to whether I am a con-man, crook, thief, liar & cheat or something a bit more noble. I don’t want to list the adjectives that might accompany the bit-more-noble alternative as no doubt they are exaggerated & I would blush. But I hope I don’t offend my supporters when I say that I can understand the sentiments of some of the sincere naysayers. Qtrax has been too damn long in the making. (I am not sure how we could have done it quicker & the impossible does take a bit longer but the criticism is nonetheless valid). And we have had to alter launch dates (& other critical dates) way too many times. (Almost always related to delayed/broken promises in funding [and the big boys delay all the time] but we’ve been wrong, nonetheless). And we have not kept our shareholders as well informed as they have a right to expect & demand- no question about it (We have worked round the clock to build something for them but that’s no substitute). So if you didn’t know me- either personally or via the written word [which I haven’t facilitated until now] you could well conclude that I am any and all of those pejorative terms. And if that is your sincere conclusion, I am the one to blame for not communicating with you better. It is not a completely unreasonable conclusion (although as it happens far from the truth. If however you have some motive in condemning us- like you’re bitter or jealous or a competitor or both, please excuse me for saying: screw you. Now, to be fair, with a couple of notable exceptions, I don’t know whether any particular blogger is one or the other- sincere or disingenuous. So I am not going to condemn anybody. Criticism is good. It’s welcome. And no doubt, it’s often justified. And if we listen, we hopefully will improve. And even if it comes from a twisted, jealous f***, it may contain something truthful from which we can learn. Having said all of that, if somebody is out to destroy us or to even merely impair our progress, we will not take such interference lightly. We welcome the critical. Even the misguided. As long as they don’t try to interfere in us accomplishing our goals on behalf of our many & varied stakeholders.

So back to the week of extremes. As I was saying, among the highs was important industry execs, being very helpfully supportive, . And also great progress in fundraising. A very prestigious brokerage/investment house declaring their intent to raise funds for us & executing a mandate. A public company signing an MOU (when it becomes binding we’ll announce it) to invest in Qtrax Greater China. Very high profile celebrity interest in our launch.

The overriding “low” was continued corporate (& personal) poverty. But God willing, this might be the week (or two), that fixes it for once & for all. In a non-denominational way my fingers are crossed. And I am extremely hopeful. With good reason.

Another “low” of the week is of course the highlighting in the press of our dispute (more like a tiff really) with Oracle. I could say a lot about our version of events. Arguments I happen to think are very compelling. (Including the fact that we paid for all of the existing licenses handsomely and in full under an old contract, moved to a new one for the next 3 years to cater for the global roll-out post-launch but have not utilized ANY additional software since & of course haven’t launched and that consequently for a start up, in this economic environment, we weren’t seeking too much indulgence.) And there’s even some juicier stuff. But because I believe the lawsuit will be withdrawn by week’s end let me rather focus on the fact that I think we have had & will once again forge a great partnership with Oracle.

By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more bad press. Bring it on. I’ll have more to say about that in a blog in the next 24 hours. Nothing new- just the same stuff rehashed. Orchestrated by somebody with a real vendetta against us or more accurately, me. Blames me apparently for the fact that his business (trying to do something similar to us but of course much smarter) never got off the ground. It’s amazing how as you get closer to the finish line the jealous become more jealous and the badly intended, more so.

Now, I cannot sign off without a discussion of our launch date. So are we going to set a launch date? Well, I said in the last blog that we will do so when the money is deposited. And I thought it would happen by now. I was wrong. It is not yet deposited. But it is scintillatingly close. So stand by. We will be announcing that FINAL, IMMUTABLE launch date very soon.

A Note From Allan Klepfisz

Posted in ad supported, Blog, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog, Uncategorized with tags on July 17, 2009 by David

The Impossible Takes a Bit Longer

I suppose most of those that will read this first blog of mine, don’t know me. Though that doesn’t prevent a few supporters and indeed detractors from writing with the sort of certainty and detail that implies an intimate knowledge of, not only me, but also my motivations, character etc. In this age of blogging you can enjoy the illusion of having many more friends (and enemies) than you’ve really earned. Hundreds, if not thousands, can now exchange tweets with you. But I recall (from the days when I knew an occasional moment of leisure) that there’s nothing quite like a couple of really good friends. But to be a good friend of mine, these days (and I suppose for the past 8 years), you have to suffer all the considerable indignities I throw in your direction. Including but not limited to having no time to ever go out with you (or even socialize with you in my very occasionally occupied home), making highly unreliable times to talk with you on the phone, etc etc. There are clearly very few that would put up with this sort of mistreatment & so my friends are few. But hugely appreciated because I am the undeserving recipient of their undying loyalty. And they understand my obsession to accomplish the heretofore impossible. On behalf of my shareholders, my hugely deprived but amazingly focused and dedicated and inspired and inspiring colleagues & professionals, my family, my creditors & just in case I sound too damn altruistic, myself. In no particular order.

The entrepreneur- which as I write it sounds like far too pompous a title to attribute to oneself- can sometimes be selfless. Something I (usually feebly) aspire to. But if he is dedicated & “inspired” he is inevitably as selfish as hell. Because nothing stops in the way of “the vision”. And whatever he sacrifices of his own, he also mindlessly sacrifices of others. Most particularly his family. And friends. But perhaps I will try to assuage my towering guilt on another blog.

But back to my original assertion- most likely, you don’t know me. Well if you knew me, you’d know that in the mix of my few virtues & multiple flaws, I have an attribute which is probably both- to the extreme. I have a quite obsessive need to pedantically report it, as it is. Every scintillating and bloody boring detail of the truth. Unabridged, unexpurgated, relentless, accurate detail. The good, the bad & the ugly. And then some. Perhaps as a consequence, silence is a challenge for me. But one that I’ve been forced to master over the past few years- at least in so far as denying myself a voice in the public arena. My main reason for doing so is pretty mundane- no damn time. And the feeling that in the 20 or so hours a day, 365 days a year that you must dedicate yourself to achieving the impossible (and staying alive to do it), you are not doing everything that’s needed. Indeed, for all that you get done there’s so much that you can’t. And the notion of squandering time, explaining rather than doing, is not an attractive one.

But it’s become a necessary one and one that our long-suffering, amazingly supportive shareholders can rightly think is way, way overdue. So from now on, I’ve decided to use those occasional down times, when your output is curtailed by circumstances- like flying over the Pacific as I’m currently doing- to share a few facts, thoughts & lots of ramblings with you. Of course in detail. And most importantly, calling a spade a spade. Or even better, a bloody shovel.

Some of the questions I hope to answer are: Why has Qtrax taken so damn long? Why have we suffered multiple and major delays not to mention false starts? Why do we nonetheless think- more so than ever- that we have a completely unique proposition that is going to give the consumer, the artist and the rightsholders, so much more than they’ve enjoyed to date, in the digital age. And be a badly needed paradigm shift for the music industry. And why do we think- more so than ever- that the other models out there just don’t work. And what’s so damn unique about our model. And aren’t we just another crappy ad-supported model? And why would anybody believe, after all the delays, that finally we are going to be launching throughout the world, progressively? And how does an impoverished little company, that’s fought & is fighting so many battles get on its feet- financially & operationally? And when is everything supposed to be happening, this time? See that’s the trouble with the Pacific Ocean- it’s very big and the flight’s long, so you might be getting more info than you’ve bargained for.

Qtrax has taken so damn long because the impossible really does take longer. We are the only company in the world that has global licenses for free & legal downloads. From majors & indies. And there is only one territory in which they exist in the hands of others- China in which Top100 hits has a limited catalog in partnership with Google. And we have these rights for the world.

Now- am I claiming that in achieving the impossible, we’ve been highly efficient? Absolutely not. We’ve tried hard but the truth is that if total efficiency is the goal, we’ve failed. I’ve failed. You want examples of failure, wretched reader? Well here they are. We have had several iterations of the software. We chucked out the earlier ones and built something that is unparalleled, we believe, in its functionality. And ease & speed of downloading of music tracks (Perhaps 5 seconds). And accessible encyclopedic information. But in building this extraordinary product, our brilliant CTO, Chris Roe, abandoned just about everything from prior efforts. As did our unerringly spot-on content czar, Matt Kramer. So we wasted a lot of time in getting to a great product. And in shifting our team from Australia to NYC. And in stopping & starting as money ebbed & flowed. Boy, have we had a lot of stops & starts.

We’ve also been inefficient in going through two sets of expensive licenses with the music industry. We threw out the first set. They were too restrictive and didn’t allow us to present the ultimate consumer proposition: free, high quality, downloadable music. A massive catalog. Unlimited plays. Etc, etc. But the first step was the unavoidable stepping stone to the second as the industry liberalized it’s thinking.

And of course we had an aborted launch. In Jan, 2008. But enough has been written about that. Our spectacular international humiliation. That had a massive silver lining. We could demonstrate how huge a desire there was for our service. And we increased our resolve to be able to offer an unparalleled service. And globally.

But despite the fact that these “detours” have robbed us and our supporters of time, we have remained undeterred in our mission.

It’s not the done thing, perhaps, to be so direct but in my view it’s the only way to be. It may provide fodder to those that are dedicated to undermining us- whether because we are encroaching on their territory and threatening their business models (including the illegal ones that enrich themselves at the expense of the artists etc) or because they are twisted & jealous (I won’t name them because to do so would be to reduce myself to their level of character assassination). But telling it, like it is, warts & all, is pretty damn important. The twisted bloggers are great at frankness within a very narrow band- the warts of others (none of the good stuff about others ) and never, but never, their own warts. In fact, they are perfect & hence supremely qualified critics. If only the truth was not the reverse.

So, while making those lofty observations about telling it like it is, let me be even more frank. We have most often suffered delays because of lack of money. Did I say that? Do corporations ever say that? Probably not. But let’s aspire a little higher on the frankness scale. Oh, we raised a lot of money- and spent it as judiciously as we could (which we think was pretty damn judiciously), notwithstanding my confessions above to certain inefficiencies. But this is a crazily ambitious project and we’ve always needed more. Indeed, it is delays in promised monies, that have in turn, delayed us once more. Broken promises with money tend to create a vicious chain. Somebody promises somebody else who promises us. And any broken promise, in the chain, leads to delay on our part. Not to mention to our own set of broken promises. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not attributing the blame to anybody else. The buck (or lack thereof) stops with me. Probably, by now, I should have learnt to not make ANY predictions. Even with all the requisite disclaimers. But people, rightly want some guidelines & timelines. And so we try, not often enough, to provide them. But in a way, it’s too often. Because, particularly, in these unpredictable times, it’s very easy to be wrong. Because even if you add plenty of extra time to account for the unexpected, you can never accommodate a massive delay or a completely broken promise. But none of this is an excuse for being late. Nor is it an attempt to avoid giving what will, we strongly believe, be the final, unalterable, unmovable launch time. And we’ll do that in the next week. And you’ll be able to mark it in your calendar. And we’ll do a corporate update at the same time to give you a few more things to mark in your calendar. The reason we’re waiting until next week is we want to make sure we have the money in the bank. With money comes certainty. Our detractors may rejoice at the delay. We’ll all be rejoicing very soon. With much more joy. I just hope that the disbelievers don’t own any shares. If they ever did.

Our confidence comes from the fact that we have finally found the bucks (that we thought we had before). In almost sufficient & certainly substantial quantity, to do everything we want & need to do. Now, you might justifiably ask- could something go wrong? Could there be a further delay? My answer, and the only responsible answer, is anything is possible. And you can never be certain about funding until it’s in the bank. But this should be it. We have never had more money promised, with more certainty. From sources we trust. Whose word is their bond. And worth more than a 100 page contract. But if there is going to be the slightest variation, we will inform you ahead of time. We are confident. These people have previously delivered. And delivered. A very large amount in aggregate. Microsoft has often had major & repeated delays in releases. And they couldn’t use the money excuse. In our case, I think you know intuitively, that it’s the cold, hard truth. On to the next confronting question…..

So why is Qtrax unique & uniquely powerful? Because of its licensing contracts, certainly. But also, because of its business model. Refined over the 7 years we spent in the wilderness. Working on the licenses and thinking. And thinking. And thinking some more. Let me make a few reflections in this regard although I must ask you to forgive me if we don’t reveal every aspect of our “secret sauce(s)”.

First, if you want to have a viable ad-supported model, it helps to have people that know something about ads. Too many people that come up with a technology, even a winning one, place inadequate emphasis on the importance of getting the ad part right. Which after all, is the revenue, stupid! Or much of it. Now, my partners, Lance & Robin know a damn lot about advertising. They have lived it & breathed it for their entire professional lives. As many of you know (and are thankful for), Lance was (among many achievements) the founding publisher of Maxim magazine. And during the 8 or so years under his leadership, against all odds, the magazine became the number one men’s magazine in the US & sold hundreds of millions of dollars of ads to advertisers for our demographic- 15-35 year olds. And Robin- was of course the global Chairman & CEO of Universal McCann. In fact, made it agency of the year. These two guys happen to be damn smart at what they do. And not too dumb, otherwise.

Secondly, you need to make the site attractive to advertisers. Obvious, you might say. Well, not obvious enough to be a priority to so many sites including most that offer music. They are sinfully unattractive. Especially to advertisers. And user-generated content doesn’t help either. It often makes advertisers nervous. And most of the big sites to date, are based on user generated content. Which gives us a massive opportunity. Because advertisers need to come online to find our demographic. But they want to do it in a predictable environment.

Third, you need to be realistic about your revenues. Most of your income is going to come from network ads. Those low paying ads that populate most sites. You’re not going to earn a high CPM for them. In fact, you are going to early a decidedly lousy CPM. And only a small percentage of your inventory is going to be premium advertising which will necessitate negotiating with an advertiser and getting a more decent rate. But your business has to survive on low CPM’s and if it can’t, you’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. We have tweaked & tweaked our business model, to make sure it can. And Robin has then modeled our business model- 23 times to date. Not because he loves the task but because we take this shit very seriously. Because guess what- we’ve worked this hard to create a successful business. Not a money, losing proposition. When (ok, if & when) we have tens of millions of users, we want also to be profitable. Call us weird.

Fourth, you need to be mindful of your costs. Something that streaming services are discovering. And they account for all of our free music legal competitors. And you need to find a way to make your licensing costs bearable. Something we’ve worked very hard at.

Fifth, you need to have a sure way of getting massive audience. And we are creating that sure way. By engaging the dominant sites, search engines & media players in each territory. In short, by getting off our asses, leaving the comfort of the US and talking to eager marketing partners. My partner Lance has sacrificed his home life (not to mention his golf) to take to the road with me. Interminably. As has my long suffering partner, Chai. And Robin. And Alex. Perhaps not the common way for people in our industry. But a damn effective way.

Sixth, what about the local music? If you leave the safety of your home country and pound the overseas pavements, you might notice that taxi drivers in Hong Kong listen to Chinese music, in Turkey to Turkish music, in Dubai to Arabic music etc. So it takes effort & we are just beginning but we are intent on hunting down the sources of local music in every country we’re going to be operating in. And having something other than your standard, US, ethnocentric, music service.

I could probably go onto to 20 more unique aspects of what we’re doing. But as Dylan says, “Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore” and they’re serving breakfast on this flight which means the Pacific is soon ending and land is in sight. Apart from which, there has to be something left for another monster blog or 2.

But I haven’t answered all the confronting questions, I posed and I know there’s at least one miserable soul out there who is waiting to fault me on being evasive about something.

Just a word, then, on our battles. We have had every type. Battling against an old model for the music industry. Which served it so well for so long. But which the ability of consumers to bypass the CD, rendered obsolete. If you can get music free, albeit illegally, you will. And that’s why, perhaps 95% of consumption, perhaps much more, is illegal. And if you can buy, legally, just the track or 2 you want from an album, you will. Which is why both illegal activity & legal activity are making the industry cry out for a new model. But our departure from any conventional model was radical. Too radical. And we had to battle hard for it. And we did. And did.

And we battled the complexity of licensing. Our licensing guru, Rick Riccobono went on a mission to London to sort our the insanely complex terrain of European publishing licensing. He’s got it sorted after being there for 2 grueling years.

And we’ve battled to raise money. And to raise it while being honest (if sometimes wrong). Every day for about 7 years. Every day. With the help of a team that I thank hugely. They know who they are. And the money raised has mostly been from genuine investors who have mostly remained very enthusiastic for the entire period. Which has been really more than we could expect or deserve. Much more. But also from toxic PIPES/death spiral funds (Google that!) and inadvertently from some undesirables and we’ve ended up in legal battles with several of them. And a couple of suppliers who may or may not have done the right thing by us. And sometimes, frankly, we haven’t done the right thing by others, either. Like not being able to meet checks on their due dates. And as inexcusable as that has been, one by one we have worked thru situations to ensure that everybody gets paid. Even if it means dipping into our own pockets. No hiding behind the corporate veil for us. Whether it takes personal guarantees (& exposure) or personal funds, we’ve done what is required to keep the company afloat.

And we’ve battled to remain in control of our destiny. This has been a critical and constant battle. Because everybody knows how to do it better. But thankfully our largest funders have been the wisest. They’ve known that to tame us is to destroy us. I believe we have the most talented team ever assembled to get this job done. From our office manager Teo (who has to put up with both you & us), to the IT, content, licensing, advertising & funding execs. They’re nothing short of brilliant. And dedicated, And loyal. We’re also damn unconventional and we’re going to stay that way. You think we need to become more mainstream, more corporate? Screw you.

And we’ve battled to simply exist. To keep the lights on. Not to go the way of so many others. And to survive personally. I am both proud and ashamed that management is the largest creditor of this company. You’d understand why.

And we’ve battled not to dilute the hell out of shareholders while raising funds. And somehow we’ve succeeded in this regard more than could perhaps be expected.

We are nothing if not dogged. And stubborn. And determined. And God willing, our reward & that of our large number of stakeholders, is that we are very soon going to launch a powerfully attractive music service, with leading internet & media companies as marketing partners. That have existing substantial users. And we’ll progressively roll it out throughout the world.

This is the least that you, our long suffering, supporters deserve. And while it’s perhaps more than I deserve because of how long it took me to get here, as long as there’s breath in my body, I will not rest until it’s achieved. Of that you can be certain.

–Allan Klepfisz

Gotta Get Get

Posted in ad supported, Blog, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog on April 20, 2009 by David

black_eyed_peas
The number one song in the USA right now is Boom Boom Pow, by Black Eyed Peas. I didn’t know this was a fact until I checked in with the Billboard Top 100 today even though I went out to a couple of clubs on Saturday night and probably heard it no less than seven times. To be honest, my best clubbing days are in my rear view mirror getting smaller and smaller, but every once in a while I get out and see what’s moving feet and shakin’ dorsal fins. Boom Boom Pow pretty much followed me everywhere on Saturday night. Like most of will.i.am’s songs, he understands what is hot, and then he delivers a quick and tasty morsel that’s easily consumed in mass quantity, and then it disappears like the secret message in Mission Impossible.

So, your mission, if you accept it, is to go on Qtrax and download Boom Boom Pow and count how many genres and musical styles the Black Eyed Peas borrow from for this track. For example, I’m hearing Moby, T-Pain, Nelly, Daft Punk, Jock Jams etc. It’s almost as if there are absolutely no original thoughts in this entire song, which kind of makes it totally unique—if that makes any sense. You don’t know if they spent one afternoon on recording this track, or if it took years to create. Is it perfectly simple or simply perfect? Or is it somehow duping our brains into heading to the dance floor it so it can steal our credit card numbers and bank PIN numbers. I don’t know. Help me out here.

Total search time on Qtrax for Boom Boom Pow: 4 seconds.
Total download time: 8 seconds.
Total headshaking groovealisciousness: 4 minutes 12 seconds.

Amazingly Inaccurate

Posted in ad supported, Blog, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog on April 14, 2009 by David

Normally, I’m a good sport about the ribbing of Qtrax. Hell, I’ll be the first one to admit that things haven’t gone so smoothly and I get of the enormity of that understatement. I’ll even let most of the opinions of others following our story go unchecked, regardless of how factual, opinion-laced or ignorant they are. Frankly, I enjoy the dialog and there is usually something to be learned or gained by simply listening. I’m assuming that consumers are aware that anyone can post anything they want online in blogs, tweets, emails, comments etc. and there is a massive chasm between genuine journalism and the un-checked, sloppy posts of your average blogger (see: Qtrax Music Experience). Yet every once in a while, someone goes too far, and needs a good old-fashioned bitch slap regardless of how small and insignificant their writing is. Such is the case following the post titled: Qtrax: More Frustrating than Q*Bert on a blog called Idolator.

The title was good. I thought I was in for a treat. Sadly, that’s the only thing that was good. I thought of providing a running commentary against the entire story, which is so far from the truth, but realized that would seem petty and would ultimately bore the hell out of readers. So, I’ll trust that you’ve gone to the above story and read it. Go ahead do it now, it’s fine. I’ll wait. Done? Did you read the comments? OK, I’ll wait a bit longer. Cool. Now, here’s my response to you, Mike Barthal, “the amazingly inaccurate blogger” or “the guy with the slowest computer and access on the planet.”

1. If you’re going to count the steps and time it took to download an application that provides you with free and legal music downloads, you should probably know what a “step” is. I counted only 15 actual steps to downloading and installing the application and downloading and playing music, which is about the same as Skype, iTunes, Google Chrome, and come to think of it, most other applications that require registration and action. Just so you know for your future posts, noticing logos, getting drinks, sitting there waiting, admiring bookmarks, reading about FAQs etc. are not steps in acquiring music on Qtrax. You know this, you were just trying to be funny and entertaining. I get that, but if someone comes away with the notion that it takes 34 actual steps to get music on Qtrax, well, then you’ve just lied to your readers.

2. I really started to feel sorry for you with all the time you spent during the download process. Could it be that I simply forgot how damn long it takes to download this beast (a third of the size of iTunes) of an application? Maybe. So, I uninstalled Qtrax and went through the process again. Readers (both of you) of this blog know that I’m not likely going to get a job with the Geek Squad any time soon, so don’t think I’ve got a huge IT advantage. However, I can install a program, have a 2 year old lap top with an Intel Core Duo 2 processor (shazam!) and a high-speed wireless router connected to a cable modem. Let me know if I went too fast for you there, as I can tell I went all nerdlinger there for a moment. Here’s a quick comparison:
a. Installation time. Mike: 10 minutes. Me: 18 seconds
b. Launch time. Mike: 5 minutes. Me: 10 seconds.
c. Music download time: 5 minutes. Me: 2 seconds.
d. Playing song (verify track): Mike: 1 minute. Me: 6 seconds

Now, maybe I’m just a brilliant super-user that should consider a career in something other than writing or digital media, but the whole process didn’t even allow me enough time to get a drink–and I like to drink. To top it off, it was all done in Firefox. That very same browser that you mentioned the downloader doesn’t work in. Damn, ended a sentence in a preposition. See what you made me do?

3. Here’s Mike’s summary, followed by my summary.
Total time: 45 minutes.
Result: A country cover of “Fat Bottom Girls.”
Was it worth it? Not really, no.
Overall impression? It’s like a shitty version of iTunes where you can download some random free songs. So maybe people will like that!

Total time: 3-4 minutes.
Result: Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face”
Was it worth it? Yes, if you like free music.
Overall impression? Thanks for the free music. It didn’t cost me anything which is totally unlike anything on iTunes. Plus,
Qtrax has all the catalogs of all the major labels and a ton of indies, hardly random at all. I bet most people will like that.

Mike, either you are less tech-savvy than me (which is hard to imagine), you need to update your service from dial-up, upgrade your computer from a Commodore 64 or start feeding that hamster some higher protein rodent mix to get a steady power supply. I’m sorry it took so much time. Speaking of that, I’m actually counting about 21 minutes of time for you, but you say 45 minutes. Did you actually go to another site and look up “Fat Bottom Girls?” Seriously, did you? It happens to the best of us, buddy–next thing you know, the whole morning’s shot.

Now, I realize that you’ll have to consider the source on this information. I’m obviously going to take the pro-Qtrax side of most arguments. I understand that the site and the download/installation process need some work. I appreciate any and all comments, especially ones that take a fair critical look at what we’re offering. Like I said, it totally helps us out. However, when a bogus story gets posted and has comments that actually thank the author for an inaccurate portrayal of the facts which support his dislike of our site, then we have to speak up. So, Mike Barthal and the Idolator team, we welcome your comments and criticism. We appreciate you taking note of our service. We applaud your efforts to inform the masses. We give you props for stating your opinions. We just wish you would take the time (really, it only takes about 3-4 minutes if you’re equipped with my space age technology) to get the story straight.

However, what’s really sad about the story, is what’s posted on Mike’s page on the site. Even though some 600 people viewed the story and 6 comments were made, one thing breaks my heart. As it so viciously states on Mike’s page on the blog, “Mike Barthal has no friends.” Seriously, someone change that.

Leakage…Release…What is He Talking About?

Posted in ad supported, Blog, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog, Uncategorized with tags , on April 9, 2009 by David

unstoppable-fan-album-cover-chris-kubik
One of the bigger issues surrounding digital music is the leaking of material before the release date. Obviously, this created an issue for any band that was really trying to make a massive splash with their core fans and really boost week one sales. Everyone was so damned concerned that their music not be leaked online. Consider the case of Guns n’Roses, “Chinese Democracy.” Axel and company made everyone wait 13 years for a new album and a blogger with an advance copy had to go and post it on the internet. Tsk, tsk, young internet warrior. Savvy pirates and downloaders got their G n’ R on a week or two ahead of the masses, and now some blogger may find himself in jail (gasp!). However, what really happened was that the record label got a boat load of free PR prior to the release, week one sales got a big boost (even though lawyers sucking the bands and labels dry say otherwise), and the Gunners finally get some press over someone not in the band getting busted.

Consider another story of unintentional leakage (that might be my favorite saying for the next month). Buckcherry got their undies all in a bunch over the leak of a rather randy video of “Too Drunk.” They even issued a press release bemoaning those responsible for the egregious copyright violation and told fans to not to participate in such shenanigans. According to multiple articles, the leak can actually be traced back to the band’s management through the source IP address. The result was a ding to the über indie-cred reputation of the band, but ultimately gave a group that normally lives outside of mainstream PR channels, a boost in popularity. Don’t get me wrong, Buckcherry is certainly my cup of tea and I realize that you got to do what you got to do to get heard out there these day, but please, don’t play your fans for chumps. I’d rather have you say, “Hell yeah we made it all up. Suckers! Wait until our next stunt…” Own it.

Is there a point here? Sure. I want to make it clear that there are two kinds of music fans. Those who pay for music. Those who don’t. Very few people are in between, and bands have to embrace both audiences. The leaking of music actually affects both groups. Consider Rascal Flatts. You don’t need to be a country music fan to know the enormity of their popularity. They’ve got enough awards to fill the Grand Ole Opre, one of the highest grossing tours and a major retail partnership with JC Penney. Their new album, “Unstoppable,” was released yesterday. My guess is that it’ll be number one in sales by the end of the week. Prior to that, they themselves dropped an early single, previewed the album online, didn’t make a fuss when it showed up on various illegal sites ahead of time and here it is, one day after it’s official release (it was actually up yesterday), on Qtrax. Free and legal. For all to enjoy. Well, for all of those in the US with PCs to enjoy (for the moment).

Leaking music can help to inspire sales, gain some PR and even engage with new fans that don’t pay for music, but will pay for a concert tickets, t-shirts, official keg meisters or inflatable furniture. Leakage, although sometimes an issue is not going to hurt you too much in the long run (wait, did I just say that out loud?).

Let it be said that there really isn’t a blueprint for artists to follow anymore. It’s all in flux. A giant industry of trial and error. Certainly, there are some folks (Rascal Flatts) going about their business of self-promotion the right way which others can follow as an example. Other bands aren’t doing quite as well, but I bet they’re learning. Don’t take it personally if your favorite band goofs things up a bit. After all, it’s just business.

Check it out!

Posted in ad supported, Blog, Free Music, Music, Music Download, P2P, Qtrax, Qtrax Blog on April 1, 2009 by David

http://www.qtrax.com

more soon…