Free Music Service QTrax: Public Soon, Launch By Dec. Dead by Spring?


The company that owns Qtrax, a NY-based outfit that wants to offer free, ad-supported music downloads, plans to merge Qtrax into a public shell within a month. Then it plans on launching Qtrax’s actual service by the end of the year.

This may sound familiar. QTrax had planned on going public via shell before — it was set to do so this summer, but backed out August 1. And QTrax has floated launch dates before: in June, it told the New York Post it would launch in October.

This time, says Allan Klepfsiz, CEO of QTrax holding company Brilliant Technologies, he’s got it figured out. Unlike rival free music service SpiralFrog, QTrax has the support of three of the four major music labels. The lone holdout, Universal Music, has a deal with SpiralFrog (the other majors don’t), and Klepfisz says he is “about to finalise” a deal with UMG. Klepfisz won’t explain what sank the previous shell deal, but says he has another one lined up and will go forward within the next 30 days.

Yet even if QTrax does go public, and does launch, it’s hard to see how it will ever work. Like SpiralFrog, QTrax asks customers to change the way they consume music, and like SpiralFrog, it gives them little they don’t already have in return. Qtrax plans to search all peer-to-peer filesharing networks, then allow users to download songs cleared by the labels (Snocap, a service founded by Napster’s Shawn Fanning, once proposed to do the same thing but abandoned the idea). To play the songs, users will have to boot up Qtrax software, which will display ads.  They’ll only be able to listen using an Internet-connected PC. The service won’t work with iTunes or iPods.

So why bother? Allan’s pitch is that since Qtrax combs all the big P2P networks, users have a wider range of music to choose from than iTunes’ 5 million songs, and can download them for free without breaking the law. This logic is flimsy.  It’s hard to imagine that the labels will clear more songs for Qtrax than they have for iTunes. And file-sharers continue to have no qualm about legalities.

Like SpiralFrog, QTrax has also shuffled executives since making a media splash last year. Former EMI executive Ken Parks joined as QTrax/Brilliant’s COO in January but lasted less than four months. He’s  been replaced by Robin Kent and Lance Ford — formerly CEO and head of sales, respectively, for SpiralFrog (Kent and Ford also have a deal to sell sponsorships for SAI sister company Music Nation). Best wishes to Robin and Lance, but we can’t see any executive making this idea work.

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