FreeAllMusic.com (FAM) recently launched its beta music download site to a limited number of invitees.
The site's concept is simple. Users are given five credits each Tuesday. To redeem a credit for a free song download, the user must watch a brief advertisement from the site's sponsors. The user can choose which commercial out of a selection of 15 or so to watch. After viewing, the download automatically begins. The mp3s have no DRM restrictions, and they are typically available in 256 kpbs or 320 kpbs quality.
The idea is that sponsors, through their video advertisements, end up subsidizing music purchases for the end user. So while the song may seem free to the end user, in actuality the sponsor has compensated the artist and label for the end user's download. In exchange for the user's time watching video advertisements, the user gets a free mp3. And in exchange for footing the bill for the mp3, the sponsor gets thirty seconds of direct marketing with the user.
In the three or so weeks I've had beta access to FAM, I've been very pleased. The song and artist selection is comprehensive. Top 40 hits from Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas are available, as are more obscure alternative spins from Crash Kings and The Features.
The site does have some limitations. You are given only five download credits per week, and the credits do not roll over into subsequent weeks. In other words, you must "use or lose" your credits within a seven day period. Additionally, not every music label is on board yet, so there are still a number of artists missing from the database. Finally, the interface is lacking. Notwithstanding a "Top 100 Songs of the Week" showcase, songs and artists are not presented to the user in the way that the Amazon or iTunes stores tend to promote up and coming or artistically significant tunes. Instead, the user must enter a basic search query into FAM's in-house search engine and sift through songs that may or may not be relevant.
Despite its setbacks, FAM is a huge winner in my book. The site is still in beta, so it's interface and offerings are bound to improve substantially. Most importantly, where else can one download twenty free mp3s per month while ensuring artist compensation? Nowhere, that's where. Due to this fact alone, FAM is one of my favorite new music sites of 2010.
If you are interested in signing up for a beta membership, head on over to http://www.freeallmusic.com. My invite took about a month to arrive after registration, so be prepared to be patient. The pay-off is well worth the wait.