The world’s biggest music company is taking on Apple by making its entire music catalogue available on a free, legal download service.
Universal Music’s MP3 tracks will appear on SpiralFrog, which is set to be launched in the US and Canada in December and should appear in Europe early next year.
The service will make money from adverts on its site rather than charging people to download music.
Apple’s iTunes, which sells tracks for 79p each, is currently the biggest download service in the world, but is only compatible with the company’s iPod player. SpiralFrog’s tracks won’t work with the iPod but will work with other MP3 players.
Robin Kent, head of SpiralFrog, said: ‘Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling. SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site.
‘The audience of music lovers between the ages of 13 and 34 is the core audience we will attract by building a music-centric experience and destination that is second to none, legally delivering what the majority of users want – content they pay for only with their time. It’s content that advertisers are willing to pay for on their behalf.’
According to the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, 60 million MP3 players were sold last year and 420 million single tracks were downloaded during the year.
That figure is up to 20 times higher than it was two years ago but for every legal download, it’s estimated that 40 are done illegally.