It's official. Qtrax is back. After several confusing leaks suggested it had gained renewed short-term "trial" licenses from a handful of major labels, the ad-supported music download service has gone live in several countries.
They include Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. These are the first of what the company says will be a rollout to 30 countries overall in the weeks and months ahead. No word on a U.S. launch, or if one is in the cards at all.
While the company feels what they've created represents "the ultimate consumer proposition and very compelling business model," the service has several major question marks attached to it. First and foremost is whether users will go for the cumbersome download and playback method the service has adopted. Users must watch ads before downloading a track, and any tracks they download via the service must be played in a dedicated Qtrax player that also displays ads during playback.
The catalog is another question. While it has short-term licenses from at least three of the four major labels (WMG's involvement remains unclear), they are mostly for back catalog tracks, not upfront releases.
Qtrax still owes the major labels money from the licenses secured from its last failed launch two years ago. The short-term licenses were struck to allow the company to launch a service that can collect the revenues needed to pay what it owes. If it can't do so in time (some say three-months), then the licenses expire and Qtrax fads back into oblivion.