giovedì 7 febbraio 2008

Hype: Qtrax and more

I am sure you all have heard about Qtrax in the last days; it’s the P2P service that, according to the last week announcement at MIDEM in Cannes, should enable people to download music for free. If you want to enjoy a 25 million songs catalogue, all that you have to do is to put up with some advertising on the Qtrax website.

Qtrax boss announced that they already had agreements with the major record companies, including EMI, Universal Music and Warner Music.

If you believe that it’ too beautiful to be true, you are definitely right.

After a few days, in fact, it come out that Qtrax had no agreement with any record label. So what was all this hype for? Maybe just free promotion, just a way to draw the media attention on Qtrax.

Two considerations came to my mind. First of all, that maybe Qtrax business model has some flaws; it’s unlikely that record companies will publish electronic copies of their hits without any kind of control. Qtrax claims to protect the songs using DRM, but all the previous attempts from the record companies to protect music with DRM have completely failed. Moreover, DRM-protected songs do not work on the iPod, which uses a different protection system. Qtrax CEO pretends they will have a way to make their songs compatible with iPod, but do not explain how. It would be a commercial suicide for any music store to be incompatible with the most successful mp3 player in the world.

The second consideration is about the carelessness and inaccuracy of many newspapers and televisions (like Repubblica in Italy or Times) that published Qtrax announcements without verifying if they were true. I don’t think this is the right way to be a “good journalist”, it would have been easy to contact the record companied and ask them about the existence of the presumed agreements with Qtrax.

Another example of “hype with little content” is represented by a movie that was just released last weekend in Italy: Cloverfield. In the US this movie, in the first weekend, was the greatest success of all times. This outcome was achieved as a result of a rigorous and elaborated marketing strategy by the producer J.J. Abrams, which also leveraged on the post 9/11 “paranoia”.

After the first weekend, the success was greatly reduced, because, also according to the reviews that I read, Cloverfield is a mediocre movie… however, J.J. Abrams can be happy, because the movie has already paid its costs.

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