Longtime readers of this site (that would be Will and John) know that there are consumer products to which we’ve never been very kind. These products include Microsoft’s Zune, anything from DuroSport Electronics and of course SpiralFrog, the major label-sponsored website that allows you to download DRM’d music for FREE! All you have to do is ignore some ads.
After first making fun of the concept, then making fun of the amazingly long time to market, and finally, making fun of the thing itself, I figured that I was done with ever writing about it ever again. Hell, I thought I was done with ever thinking about it again.
Until last night.
Here’s a little bit of behind-the-scenes about what goes on here at ‘Loper central: we pay attention to the comments we get. (I said a little bit.) Not just because we like to discuss things with you folks, but because we have to be on constant vigilance against spam. One of the things that always raises our eyebrows are comments on old articles. After all, much of the stuff we discuss is topical, and after a few weeks, who gives a rats ass? Everybody has moved on.
Last night, in the space of an hour, we got three comments about those three separate Spiral Frog posts, all from the same IP address. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that when that happens, the commenter is usually someone with a vested interest in the thing that we are discussing.
That’s fine, BTW: you should want to defend the things that you care about. But the language and defense were so obviously marketing-speak, as opposed to something that a real user would say, that they bordered on spam. But rather than delete them as such, I thought that I would address them all at the same time, and then ask a question for the users of SpiralFrog. The real users of SpiralFrog. (And look, I didn’t even write “if there are any.”)
At first, in preparation for this, I even thought that I would fire up the long-deleted SpiralFrog Download Manager again — you know, to see if it had improved — so I went to their website to download that new Raconteurs album that Jack White and crew announced last week and released this week, only it wasn’t there! So, never mind that.
Therefore, I’m going directly to the comments, because I think that they get to the nut of why Spiral Frog still ain’t for the likes of me.
First, here is the person’s (writing as “Crackdown”) comment on my original post: Will Spiral Frog Leap into Our Music Collection? written on August 30, 2006:
It works. It’s alive. It’s still alive, and still working. Why not support it while it’s up?
I can see the criticism, but at the moment, it’s the best hope the industry has got. We don’t need crap like Qtrax that does an epic fail maneuver before it launches.
Last I checked (this afternoon), all songs were up and running. Download speeds were fast. Ads were making money. And finally, artists were being paid.
It’s a perfectly good service. Why not use it?
So, two points here. First, the business question is never “why not use it?” but rather “why use it?” Only a monopoly like the phone company or cable company can get away with that (and sometimes not even then, as I hope we will see from Kirk in the next week or so), and Spiral Frog has never adequately answered the “why use it?” question for me. “Why not use it?” That’s easy: I have an entire universe of other things to do, that’s why not. C-ya!
Hell, even the commenter could only come up with that, well, it works and the their competitor really really sucks. Um, OK. The first should be a given — it’s like saying, “buy this house, the toilet works!” — and the second is immaterial. I don’t have to use it either, so how is Qtrax sucking a selling point for SpiralFrog?
Neither the San Francisco Giants or Oakland Athletics are likely to have a very good team this year, but the A’s in no way going to market their team by saying: “come see us, because the Giants really suck.”
Secondly, “it’s the best hope the industry has got” is flat-out wrong. As we’ve said around here countless times, the most recently being yesterday, the best hope for the industry is to dispense with DRM on music downloads once and for all. Goodbye. For keeps. Forever.
Next, is what the commenter (writing as “TonyRumble”) wrote in response to the Whatever Happened to Spiral Frog? story of December 29, 2006
Spiralfrog isn’t bad at all. I’m a university student that’s always on the lookout for good music. I’m at school most of the time, and our university doesn’t support any of the illegal p2p crap out there (BT, lime, etc), which means any of those progs will result in a 24 hour kick/ban.
Here’s where Spiralfrog comes in. I can get all the downloads and plays I want from the campus wireless for FREE. Nothing bad about it. They get their music directly from the record labels so its all legal.
I would recommend it for everyone. Support the artists!
“I’m a university student that’s always on the lookout for good music.” Right. No actual student in the history world has ever written those words. I actually expected the next sentence to be: “So I was surprised when a smoking hot blonde from the coed dorm I live in suddenly knocked on my door wearing nothing but an iPod and earbuds. And not on her ears.”
There there is this gem: “Support the artists!” This crocodile cry, uttered since Sean Fanning started freaking the record industry out is the “What about the children?!?” of the record industry: an obfuscation of their real agenda. The fact is that the record companies are not about the artists, they are about making money, and invoking the artists is trying to guilt the consumer into giving the record companies more money — most of which will stay with the record companies!
Trusting the major labels to support the artists is like trusting a junkie to hold your drugs. You wanna support the artists? Support every single experiment you see where an artist is selling their music or merchandise or tickets directly to the fans. That is the single best way you can support the artists. It sure as shit ain’t Spiral Frog.
Finally, in response to The Medialoper Review of Spiral Frog of September 26, 2007, the commenter (as Crackdown) wrote:
I got everything set up in 2 minutes flat and downloaded every Weezer album in the next half hour.
I use Spiralfrog all the way. Free music, nothing better than that. It was quite easy for me, too. I never got an error, and I’ve been using it since it started.
In the time it took you to read this review (that was admittedly biased by the author), you could have had your Spiralfrog up and running. My computer illiterate mother got it working on her work computer. It’s not that confusing.
That should be their slogan: “SpiralFrog: It’s Not That Confusing!”
And, of course, “free music, nothing better than that.” Which takes me back to my original point, nearly two years ago: there is free in terms of price, and there is free in terms of whether you’re stuck playing your music on a particular device or program or operating system.
The fact remains that everything you download from SpiralFrog is chained to Microsoft’s Plays For Sure DRM. You can’t play it on an iPod, you can’t even play it on a Zune. And it expires. If you don’t revisit their website, it simply goes away. Goodbye. For keeps. Forever.
That’s free in price only, but certainly not by any other definition of the word.
Which is why SpiralFrog isn’t for me. Forever.
But it struck me: it must be for somebody, right? Not everybody consumes music the way that I do. Right? Hell, maybe even our commenter is an actual person who was actually that incensed about my take and just happened to express that anger in marketese buzzwords!
So the question here that I’m throwing out to the world is this: has SpiralFrog become an essential part of your life? Is it your main way of interfacing with the digital music world?
After all, here are people out there who swear by Emusic or iTunes or Amazon. There are probably even people who love the subscription models like Rhapsody, etc. But who are the lovers of SpiralFrog? And more importantly, why do you love it? What does it offer that you can’t get anywhere else?
I’m really curious to see — in real language, not faux-testimonial language — why people might love SpiralFrog. I’m not interested in you trying to change my mind about it — that ship has crashed against the rocks — but rather how it has become something that you totally swear by.
I promise this: I will not snark on actual answers from actual people.