Qtrax Free Downloads Too Good to Be True?

mojo-photo-qtrax.jpgThe Drudge Report gave it a top-line link: Free, legal downloads of every song in the universe on some weird site called Qtrax! Come and get ’em! Qtrax claimed all the major record labels had signed on to their new service, an ad-supported, filtered P2P platform that would allow actual downloads of every song in the labels’ catalogs, the files wrapped in DRM, but whatever, they’re free, right?

The announced launch time of midnight came and went, and nothing. Then reports emerged that three of the four major labels, Warner, Universal and EMI, issued statements denying they had finalized deals with the service, and an “unconfirmed rumor” says that Sony’s deal doesn’t cover downloads. What does it cover, looking at pictures of their artists? The Qtrax website promises “over 25,000,000 songs,” but that’s the “theoretical” size of all the catalogs. You have to download a special application (annoying!) and it doesn’t seem to be working yet, or else I’d get right on a test run here. And now I see reports that Qtrax is run by “refugees of Spiralfrog;” hmm, Spiralfrog, where have I heard that terrible name before? Oh yeah, they tried this same thing back in September, and it didn’t work then either. Crazy!

Well, at least Qtrax is good for one thing: the level of desperation of internet startups is a good economic indicator. Are they auctioning off their little puppet dog mascot to an auto loan firm? That’s a slowdown. Are they corralling James Blunt for an announcement in Cannes where they bluff about having deals with all major record labels even though they can barely make their front page work? That’s a recession.