Startup Boots Up Private Beta

Startup digital music service—which allows users to download free songs in exchange for viewing video ads—kicks off its private beta period today (Dec. 22) with a collection of big name sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Warner Bros. Television and Lionsgate.

The Atlanta-based enters a hypercompetitive online music space with an intriguing business model. Instead of charging users a subscription fee or a per-song fee, the site allows users to listen to music for free, with no digital strings attached. And unlike the increasingly common ad-supported playlist model popular on sites like MySpace—which lets fans stream multiple songs for free—’s sponsors allow users to download and own songs permanently.

To get free songs, users register at, find songs they want to download, and then pick an advertiser they want to pay for their free song. Once he/she makes that choice, the user is required to view an 18-second pre-roll ad from that sponsor, while his or her song downloads (brands can also opt to run display ads within the site’s download screen). Once the pre-roll spot is completed, users can then do whatever they’d like with that song—including listening to it on whatever device they’d prefer, including iPods.

Users can also share their free songs with friends, who must also watch that sponsor’s ad. is testing just how many free songs each user can download at a time, starting with between 15 to 20 songs each month, with a maximum of five per site session.

However, there is a catch to all this—at least for some users. As part of its sponsorship packages, purchases inventory on various ad networks and runs corresponding display ads, which promote the fact that individual users have recently downloaded specific songs.

For example, a co-branded banner ad along the lines of “Mike S. just downloaded Air Supply’s All Out of Love courtesy of LG” might appear on certain music site. Each advertiser is promised 150 impressions of this nature per download; users can opt out of having their personal music habits broadcast across the Web.

Besides Coca-Cola, Warner Bros. Television and Lionsgate, has signed on, LG mobile phones, and the movie theater concert distributor Inconcert3D as charter sponsors of the still-in-beta-property.

Officials at said they expect the site to launch publicly in early 2010.