Seeqpod will soon start charging developers for access to its data, according to a source close to the company. A lot of interesting music discovery sites are about to go quiet, at least for a little while.Popular but legally challenged MP3 search engine
Seeqpod searches MP3 files uploaded independently all around the web; it's a great way to explore music and build playlists, and so far it's been a good way to pipe music into a wide variety of other websites. Starting next week, developers will be required to pay $3 for every 1000 search queries performed on their sites powered by Seeqpod. They will also have the option to put up $5k to license the Seeqpod crawler and index.
The $5k option was reported on this morning by Wired, where the move is framed as being primarily in response to the ongoing legal challenges Seeqpod faces at the hands of the major record labels. We presume though that the company would have needed to make money whether they were being sued (again) or not and existing revenue streams are probably not sufficient to cash in on all Seeqpod's work over the years. For a fair number of customers, $5k to license this data will be a great deal. For many others, possibly including the edgiest, it will be cost prohibitive.
We've contacted the company for comment but haven't heard back yet. Developers say that the company changed its API this morning and they are having trouble accessing the service. Semantic social search company HeadUp has published a solution to that problem.
We're surprised that there has been no discussion of a free level of service. According to a credible-looking internal email passed along to us: "Starting April 1 SeeqPod will begin charging all API partners $0.003/query ($3 for 1000 queries) -- payable via credit card or Paypal." There's a chance that this is an April Fools joke, but it wouldn't be a very funny one.
Looking over the ProgrammableWeb list of APIs tagged music, it appears the most likely candidate to replace Seeqpod as a free music API is Imeem. That company's TOS says it reserves the right to start charging for access to its data as well. Imeem doesn't appear to be as wide open as Seeqpod has been, either.
Some developers pull audio in from music videos on YouTube, but that doesn't seem like a sustainable solution. That's what our favorite music search site, Songza, does: Imeem plus YouTube with ads on screen. It may have been too good to be true: any song uploaded anywhere by anyone, for free, forever!
On some level the disruption can be blamed on the major labels' fear of free music on the web and the belief that by making content easier to discover online Seeqpod is facilitating theft of intellectual property. (Imagine if search engines had to verify the legal status of everything they pointed searchers to!) Ultimately, though, if what Seeqpod is doing were easy then we expect lots of people would be doing it. It's inevitable that the company is seeking to make some money.
We're concerned about this making it more difficult for late-night coders around the world to bust out a shocking new interface for listening to music, but we presume that innovation will live on - even if inconvenienced. We hope it works out for both Seeqpod and the developers who require free access to music in order to do what they do.