Peter Gabriel Helps Launch 'We7' Free Music Service - InformationWeek

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4/30/2007
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Peter Gabriel Helps Launch 'We7' Free Music Service

The songs are free of DRM and download fees as long as users are willing to listen to personalized messages that are "grafted" onto the beginning of song tracks and albums.

Music fans can download songs free and legally through a new service backed by Peter Gabriel and others.

The service, called We7, allows advertisers to reach listeners with personalized messages that are "grafted" onto the beginning of song tracks and albums using MediaGraft's patent pending technology. Gabriel worked with entrepreneur Steve Purdham and financial expert John Taysom to create a new ad-based Internet system for delivering music free of DRM and download fees.

"We7 provides artists -- even across the more experimental or minority genres -- with the opportunity to build a new source of income from their music," Gabriel, the world-renowned musician and founding investor, said in a prepared statement. "Ad funded downloads are the way to provide free music to the consumer without depriving musicians of their livelihood."

We7 is creating a "TasteMaker community" of artists, band members, and fans who will review new bands and artists to determine whether they are good enough to be published. Support from numerous listeners will earn bands and artists the right to be downloaded from the site.

Gareth Reakes, CTO and founder, said during an interview Monday that the TasteMaker function will launch in June and will allow visitors to choose to review songs. Reviewers can go to a page that will present five anonymous tracks. They will be able to give a numerical rating and write comments for We7 and the artist or band.

We7 will monitor activity and make changes accordingly to prevent people from gaming the system, Reakes said.

"We're going to have to keep close eye on it and be quite adaptive," he said. "One of the wonders of Web. 2.0 is that we can."

Signed musicians who have already proven their skills and popularity will not have to go through the review process to upload their work, but those venturing into a new genre can choose to do so, Reakes said.

Listeners will be able to search for music by genre, artist or recent releases. More advanced search functions will be included within certain categories, he said.

The embedded ads will last through several play cycles, for up to four weeks. They target people based on age, gender and location and play when consumers are online and offline. We7's Web site announced the service Sunday, encouraging consumers to legally share and play DRM-free tracks on any MP3 player and share content, which expands advertisers' reach.

"The revenue generated via advertising ensures artists receive royalties for making their songs available, whilst consumers will receive and share DRM-free music legitimately, making it an attractive proposition for advertisers, artists and music fans alike," We7 stated in a news release.

The service offers advertisers video and audio platforms, customer profiles, and access to "the Web 2.0 generation -- a notoriously difficult audience to reach -- via the music download culture." We7 said its Web site is designed to reach people between the ages of 14 and 65, and it will use business-to-business and business-to-consumer methods, as well as community groups to reinforce messages.

"Our advertising model creates an entirely new category of highly targeted, high value, advertising inventory, combining all the benefits of an engaging broadcast campaign with the speed and effectiveness of digital," CEO Purdham said in a prepared statement.

Reakes said that advertisers will not control music content.

"When we talk to advertisers, we're not giving them an option for a specific piece of content," he said. "We're actually offering a specific audience, and as we go forward, we hope to have different versions of the same ad for different types of people."

The Web site urges music fans to shun piracy with the slogan: "Don't steal it. We7 it!

In 1999, Gabriel funded and launched digital service provider OD2, which Loudeye bought, then sold to Nokia last year. Purdham has founded several technology companies, including SurfControl. Taysom has invested in several successful technology ventures, including Yahoo!, VeriSign and Advertising.com. He has held leadership positions with news agencies and information services, and he founded the Reuters Greenhouse Fund.

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