The Weird Case of Qtrax

FREE Music!! 25,000,000 Songs! Legal!

Those are the claims of on the current home page of Qtrax, the latest entrant in the downloadable music fray.

All I have to do, of course, is sit through advertising while downloading. Oh, and I also have to download their player in order to play the music I’ve downloaded. OK, so haven’t we already been down this route before with, you know, Spiral Frog?

Well, there is one big difference from Spiral Frog: the fact that right now the major labels are all saying “Qtrax? Who-trax?”


Still, if they actually had 25,000,000 songs, I might be persuaded to ignore their advertising in order to get some obscurity from the 1980s which still hasn’t ever been officially digitized, like Lloyd Cole’s “Love Your Wife” or The Cat Heads “Alice on the Radio” or Easterhouse’s first record. Or, even better, the Odelay reissue with all of those b-sides. Perfect!! I’d love to have the b-sides, but I really don’t need to buy Odelay again.

That is if, and only if, that music was portable. If I could take those songs a high-quality .mp3z and put them in my file system to hang out with the rest of my .mp3z, and listen to them on my iPod or my Squeezebox or on an .mp3 disc when and wherever I damn well pleased.

Not surprisingly, their web site seems to be mum on whether or not I can do that. I’m going to assume that means that I can’t.

Nevertheless, I downloaded their player, Songbird (which is a pretty good name, actually) (just as Qtrax is a pretty bad name), just to see what I could see. As it turns out, not much. Currently, I can’t do anything with it but play music I already possess. I can’t sign up for an account. I can’t search those 25,000,000 songs that they claim to have. Hell, I can’t download the (P2P concert exclusive!!!!!) Daft Punk concert Qtrax has featured on their home page.

But here’s what I can do: I can play songs I already own while watching advertisements for The Sharper Image and something called “Music 123.” Gee, thanks.

Trying to sign up for an account or access the music they say they have gives me javascript errors or internal server errors. And guess what? I don’t care enough to find out whether or not the issue is on my end or their end. I downloaded it, it didn’t work, never mind. Slapping a “Beta” on it is no excuse. Gmail is a Beta, as well.

Here’s my guess: the Qtrax sales department promised to deliver a certain amount of eyeballs to their sponsors by a certain time period, so they decided to launch without the actual major label deals in place, figuring that they’d eventually get the deals signed, and in the meantime, they would start getting some income. Hell, I’ve even mentioned their sponsors in this piece. Eyeballs!!

Look, using P2P technology as a distribution method for legal music is a great idea. I wouldn’t even mind trading advertising for portability. But, apparently, Qtrax has jumped the gun on all of it, and what they seem to have is a huge mess on every level.

It’s 2008 — 10 years on from when “.mp3” entered the vernacular as another way of saying “song” — and only Amazon, Emusic and (non-DRM) iTunes are doing digital music right.

Meanwhile, if Qtrax does end up getting a bunch of great, obscure music, as well as true portability, someone let me know, OK?

8 Responses to “The Weird Case of Qtrax”

  1. curt says:

    hey, jim — ol’ prodigy buddy here. I had heard somewhere that qtrax music IS supposed to work on ipods — but, also that apple will fight that by putting some sort of block on it.

    and, it sounds like not all of the majors are saying they are playing ball yet.

    should be interesting if it all pans out, though…

  2. John says:

    Could be a penny stock scam. Check out their stock after the announcement:

    I’m out in MIDEM now and the talk of the town is that the are nowhere to be found…

  3. Dave says:

    That is if, and only if, that music was portable. If I could take those songs a high-quality .mp3z and put them in my file system to hang out with the rest of my .mp3z, and listen to them on my iPod or my Squeezebox or on an .mp3 disc when and wherever I damn well pleased.

    Any DRM’d mp3 is portable if you convert it to another format and back. For example, you could convert the mp3 to cda by burning an audio cd, then turn around and rip it back to mp3 — No more DRM.

  4. Dave says:

    Another note: Songbird isn’t “their” player, really. Songbird is an open source media player/web browser that can easily be extended (it’s built in a similar way as Firefox is). Songbird has been in it’s alpha (developer) stage for a while now. But it’s stable enough that many people are using it as a stand alone media player. Visit if you’re interested.

    Anyway, since it’s open source, programmers can distribute customized versions of it for their own purposes. Qtrax has done just that. They’ve basically just added advertising panes to the default Songbird application, and the ability to play their DRM-protected media.

  5. Tim G says:

    I eventually figured out how to make use the QTrax software to discover and experience new and old music – it’s really quite simple.,

    Open a new tab, then type in

    (and they do have all your Beck B-Sides for you)

  6. sebastian says:

    yeah, my words exactly pal, i hope the downloads pop up soon though

  7. luckybleu says:

    check out qtrax now millions of free legal songs now for users in the usa with a global launch now scheduled for this week coming its here its for real after 7 years of qtrax execs jumping through hoops to satisfy the demands of major labels portability is also here this week , bravo to qtrax for pulling this off

  8. qtraxisfail says:

    Stop posting garbage luckybleu all over the internet. They aren’t offering millions of songs yet, if ever. Still no global launch at all. After 7 years, Qtrax has contributed squat to the music industry, beyond embarassing itself time and time again with these ridiculous promises, that anyone with a technical degree would be able to tell them that are impossible to keep or that are just plain a waste of time because no one wants it. Qtrax is a failed experiment.