We7 announced today that it's raised $6 million from Peter Gabriel and Spark Ventures.The music industry is in desperate need of new models and an interesting one got some financial support today.
The UK site offers DRM-free MP3 downloads with super-short ads preceding each song - for the first 4 weeks after download. Once a month you can select 20 tracks to remove the ad clips from, any additional ad removal will cost 20 pence (about 39 cents) per song.
Downloads are easy, right now all the songs I listened to had We7 promos instead of commercial ads. It's a solid little site - but what we're looking for in any music acquisition experience is the shortest path from discovery to rock.
So again, here's how the routine works: you either pay for songs or download them for free, with free downloads having a short ad before each song - for the first 4 weeks after download. After 4 weeks you can select 20 songs (presumably that you got a month ago) to remove ads for for free - and any other songs you want to remove ads from will cost you 20 pence (about 39 cents).
I gave We7 the girlfriend test - my girlfriend is very smart but she does not get as excited about tech for its own sake as I do. She said, and I think many people will likely agree, that this model is too complicated. Also, though it's not technically feasible with truly portable music, an ad played every 5 to 10 tracks would also be much more acceptable for consumers than an ad between every song. That's something that a whole lot of people are going to reject, violently. In other words, this is still too intrusive. In our house we listen to Pandora, we buy DRM-free tracks from Amazon MP3 and we find MP3 files shooting out the behinds of angels (but I swear we do pay out the nose for concert tickets!).Though interest was piqued by We7 - it's not enough to make us change our current habits.
None the less, this kicks the snot out of Spiral Frog - a company burning through money with a plan to require users to view advertisements in order to listen to DRM laden major label music. There's ads everywhere, account creation is required and the whole thing feels insulting and burdonsome to me. We7 isn't entirely different, but it's certainly trying.
Somebody, someday, is going to find a good way to make money on music again - even though the internet is wild and free. For now, the Peter Gabriel-backed video project Witness is still far cooler.