Qtrax—the free, ad-supported, “legal” P2P service that launched at MIDEM today—apparently isn’t as ready for prime time as it claims. The company claimed it had licensing agreements with all four major record labels, when in fact it has none.
The company briefed reporters on the new service last week in preparation for Monday’s launch, claiming it had a catalog of 30 million tracks from the four major and independent labels. It then officially unveiled the service at the MIDEM music conference in Cannes-complete with a host of celebrities including James Blunt, the Sugerhill Gang and Morris Hayes.
However Warner Music Group issued a statement saying the service was definitely not authorized to distribute its catalog, as no licensing deals were yet signed. Sources at EMI Music Group, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group all confirmed to Billboard that they too did not yet have deals with the company. A source from UMG says it expects to finalize the deal “within the next few weeks,” and the company is in talks to finalize agreements with the others as well.
Qtrax did at one time have licensing deals in place, but the term of the deals either expired or were for a different iteration of the service than what went live.
The inconsistencies with its music licensing status is just one of several missteps that may make Qtrax one of most bungled service launches in the history of digital music. The company’s press release and pre-briefings with reporters all pointed to the “live” launch of the Qtrax service. But on Monday the site shows it is only a beta launch, something the company didn’t mention in its press build-up.
Additionally, there are several important details about the service Qtrax officials have failed to make public. For instance, the service does place some limitations on music downloaded from it, but the company has not outlined what those are. It also said it would launch in several countries—in keeping with its “global” moniker—but wouldn’t say exactly where.
The company clearly wanted to make a big splash at the music industry confab MIDEM, regardless of whether it had all the necessary details lined up. But it’s likely most consumers—the ultimate target of the Qtrax press campaign—aren’t familiar with MIDEM. Now, the company’s premature news splash at the conference, without the service ready to back it, risks alienating music fans that may flock to its service to find that it’s less than advertised.
The move has also left some asking why Qtrax put so much stock in a MIDEM launch. While the conference is certainly the center of the global music industry this week, a Qtrax launch would have made news on any random Tuesday, perhaps more given the glut of other MIDEM-related announcements with which it must compete for attention.
Sources at the labels still negotiating licensing deals with Qtrax are scratching their heads trying to figure out exactly what Qtrax was thinking, but declined to comment on whether the development will harm those negotiations. However, Qtrax’s credibility, particularly among the digital and tech press, has taken a serious blow.