Now that the dust has settled on the Midem furore Qtrax have announced the important addition of Universal Music Group and Universal Music Publishing to their roster of content partners. You may recall that Universal were the first to sign up with competitor Spiral Frog. Universal have been carving out a niche for themselves as the ‘first to the table’ label partner for the more edgy digital music offerings. Whilst those services may have to pay a premium for UMG’s risk, they know that having them on board Universal will play the role of Pied Piper with the other labels eventually following cf Comes With Music, Spiral Frog, imeem. Though Qtrax has been signing partners for some time, their French Riviera faux-pas essentially relegates them to the level of new-entrant in the eyes of much of the market, so UMG’s ‘first to the table’ role fits perfectly here.
As regular readers know I dubbed 2008 as the ‘Year of Free’ (after admittedly calling it too early in 2007). This time though everything is well on track. The irony of it all though is that the free pioneers like Spiral Frog and Qtrax will probably end up playing second fiddle to the likes of Nokia’s Comes With Music and quite possibly even Apple – who may well even beat Nokia to market with a pre-stored value / pre-loaded music device.