Illegal downloading of music is somehow mildly taboo in society as a whole, which seems odd to me given that between groups of friends, young people especially, everyone I know is doing it. We are all constantly looking for the easiest and cheapest way to access music, as it’s a huge entertainment factor in our lives that appeals to almost everyone. Itunes used to be the main contender; gradually knocking out programmes like Napster, which The Guardian claims, started the ‘music revolution’ despite being created by two teenage boys. Despite the emergence of illegal sites like LimeWire and Legal ones like Spotify, Itunes is yet to die a solid death, probably down to the fact it’s designed specifically for Ipods and so many people who own one stick with the simplest process. Itunes also allows the user to actually own the file, transfer it to other locations, copy it and send it to others. Spotify is slightly flawed in that when you download tracks you can only play them on that programme and no others. Although it’s highly popular, particularly having recently set up a connection between phones and laptops to play your saved lists anywhere, Spotify remains a product that you have to pay a subscription to in order to download tracks. It has also been criticised frequently by artists complaining that the site reduces the value of music and how much people can earn for their work. But a new company is beginning to get noticed, claiming to ‘give away music for free’ whilst allowing artists to make a satisfying amount from their material. If someone could actually pull off something that difficult, it would be incredibly successful!

Qtrax was actually created in around 2006 but is experiencing a comeback having signed new contracts so is starting to make more of an appearance in the media and has only just been reviewed by The Telegraph. Its manifesto is centred on providing free music and downloads to the consumer but with a huge focus on fair profit for the artist – something that Spotify has experienced problems with. Taylor Swift for example, a hugely recognised artist, recently removed all music from Spotify and publicly announced her refusal to work with them based on the lack of profit being made from music. If Qtrax can actually pull off their claims, they could have an enormous advantage over Spotify and Itunes.

I decided to try out Qtrax for myself in order to review it authentically but before I’d even started downloading it I was faced with the big issue that it’s not yet compatible with OSX meaning only Windows users can download the programme. Already the company are eliminating a massive target audience, although I assume it’s a work in progress, similarly, their website mentioned Apple Store and Play Store apps that are to be released supposedly within the first quarter of 2015. Spotify is already very easy to access, both for listening to and downloading music on your smart phone, so if Qtrax genuinely gets round to following up it’s plans it would instantly become more accessibly to a larger audience.

The website, I have to admit I was seriously impressed by, having recently attended a workshop day on social media and website building in businesses a lot of simple but brilliantly effective elements jumped out at me. The site is a vibrant shade of purple so let’s be honest, grabs the attention straight away, it’s funny that if you go to any of the other pages they’re quite plain, whereas the homepage works really well – it’s obvious they just want to catch the attention and initially draw people in, as most companies would. It’s incredibly clear and well laid out, the font is large and key words are particularly identifiable with no chunks of text – reminding me of tips the careers service gave me on CV writing when I flailed ineptly at them. I’d swear the Qtrax site repeats the word ‘FREE’ about fifty times and the aims that the company prides itself on so much are very obviously highlighted in a little scroll shaped text box like a biblical manuscript. The company’s philosophy is ‘Artists and Songwriters need to be much better compensated for creating the music that millions enjoy’. Which in my opinion sounds great! – Particularly if they can provide free downloadable music whilst doing it. Their plan is to allocate artists an Equity Stake, which technically makes them co-owners of the business and sharers of any profit.

As for the actual programme, which I asked my housemate to download seeing as I have a Macbook, we both agreed the layout is nicer than Spotify, similar to the website, clear and easy to use, bright and attractive, it’s generally just a good experience. Its main downfall was the lack of tracks available; some more obscure artists were on there but it seemed to contain only half of the work of most, which was a disappointment. But if they are in the process of building up it’s efficiency, this could be just a short-term problem. We were sat with another friend whilst exploring it and it was interesting to find each of the three of us had a very different prediction for the future of Qtrax, taking bets on where it would be in six months time. Jack suggested it would be impossible to tell how well it will do until Spotify make some sort of comeback move to bounce back against Qtrax’s claims and reinstate itself as the top contender. Cassie was quite against it, insisting that the business model was flawed and could only make headway if the plans change, as they can’t sustain giving away music for free whilst appeasing artists. Personally, having read so much recently about the flaws beginning to emerge in Spotify, I can’t help feeling it could be on the way out, leaving a prime space for a new company, with careful development and if they can get artists on board and make enough money through advertising, I think it has potential.

It’ll be interesting to see how Qtrax expands over the next six months or so and who’s verdict was closest, but I definitely recommend checking it out even just for a few free tracks!



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