Resolved: If a greying man promises you he's going to revolutionize the music industry, be skeptical.
During this year's international record industry clusterf**k, MIDEM, a lil' company called Qtrax announced that after five years of licensing work, the release of their ad-supported, free p2p music service was imminent. They claimed they had agreements to use content from all four of the major labels (EMI, Warner Bros, Sony/Columbia, and Universal). Peoples were excited. I actually received a text message about this from a friend while half-way around the world on vacation in Australia. There was buzz.
But I was immediately suspicious. First off, the name. It may seem a little thing, but you don't launch a major consumer product with such a crappy name. Qtrax? What does that even mean? Quality Trax? Huh?
Apparently Qtrax actually means bullshit. (See, the abbreviation doesn't even make sense!) The company's CEO, Allan Klepfisz, gave a rambling, fuzzy talk at the Digital Music Forum East in New York last Wednesday. Well, at least it seems like it was rambling and fuzzy if you go by this paraphrased transcript at Wired.
i.e. On the post-launch press backlash:
We had to just turn our cheek and take it. I said we had support from the industry [here's what he said to me], and the press interpreted that as being one thing when it was another. There was a hitch – I can't go into the details.
And on his inspiration for the site:
My wife manages some big Australian artists. They said they were losing a lot on P2P and wondered if there was a way to generate revenue from P2P.
Look dude, I was in Australia when I heard about your service and it seemed to me like the internet had barely made it down there, much less p2p.
If you're going to launch a major consumer website, you should also remember to come up with better creation myth than that -- even if it's a bit false. Did Shaun Fanning really create the Napster software alone in his dorm room? Did Mark Zuckerberg really found Facebook on his own and have little expectation of its explosive success? Is Google's main intention, really, to "Do No Evil"?
Probably not, but all these notions are certainly more credible than the idea that Qtrax would change the face of the music industry. The lesson here: Do not trust greying, comfortable men when they tell you they've seen the future.
A photograph of Allan Klepfisz after the jump...
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