When I was a kid I used to get all excited when something was free (anything material). My grandfather would then tell me, "somebody paid for it." He was always right.
Universal Music has announced they will back start-up, SpiralFrog, a new digital music service providing "free" downloads. The business model is advertising-supported, costing both the listeners/viewers and sponsors.
The SpiralFrog site states DRM (digital rights management) will be used in all audio and video material. Hmm... not sure how I feel. We'll have to wait and see how this is all presented. I prefer uninterrupted ad-free music & video. I also prefer the ability to burn a CD as well as listen on my computer and mobile devices. I don't like restrictions on my entertainment. It's like taking my freedom away from driving from one state to the next. You can go here, but not there.
Nothing material is free. I'll gladly pay for freedom. Of course there are laws around freedom. The laws are just not working in the music world. It’s an extremely tough world to police. Piracy ticks me off as much as the next artist. The problem lies within society, education, government, etc. It our values and morals that are screwed up. The human spirit has been tampered with and guiltless thievery is occurring all over the world. We're (artists) not all millionaires with multiple endorsements. Artists rely on sales royalties. However, there is the other end of the spectrum, and many music lovers avoid piracy and support the artists they love (as they want the artists to continue making music).
I'm not saying SpiralFrog is bad idea. The payment process is simply not my preference and there is a lot of controversy around DRM (often referred to as "digital restrictions management").
My favorite digital music resource is Magnatune.com (no DRM, read more here). The music is Creative Commons licensed and music lovers can listen for free (at the expense of Magnatune staff and technology) or download at the price they name ($5-$18 per album). It has proved to be an extremely positive resource for my albums. I've had fans and businesses all over the world discover and license my music through Magnatune. Many contact me directly stating how much they appreciate the freedom to download my music in any popular format and use my music as they wish (non commercially, unless licensed).
Check out interesting information about information policy issues at http://ipaction.org.
(a lot of thoughts in this post...I could have gone on all day)