SpiralFrog: It’s Alive, And It’s Kinda Buggy


A little more than a year after it was first announced to not a lot of excitement, SpiralFrog–an ad-supported free music service that is giving labels two-thirds of its revenue–has opened its doors to U.S. users (at least the ones who are running Windows XP or Vista). Once again, our efforts to actually use the site were hampered by our operating system of choice, so we put a crack Idolator operative up to the task of playing around with the site. Here’s his first impression: “Installing all this Microsoft .NET framework stuff I’ve been avoiding better be worth it.” Hey, it’s worth it for us. More reactions after the jump.

Getting started: SpiralMole: MEMBERSHIP STATUS: 30 days left. WTF? “The files you download from SpiralFrog are not compatible with an iPod or Zune, but work well with most other portable music players and music phones.” MauraWontCroak: What’s using it like? Have you been able to download anything yet? SpiralMole: I’m about to–but now i’m getting error messages. Let’s try this again. SpiralMole: OK, downloading “Dance, Dance.”* I’m unaware of any ads…I thought this was ad-supported. SpiralMole: Bam. 128 kbps, I get the file for 30 days, says the media usage rights. Cannot be burned. SpiralMole: I have yet to see an ad–I guess there’s no forced viewing. All I see is ‘buy this album at Amazon’ on the bottom.

A screenshot:


(Click to enlarge.)

A few other items of note:

The catalog is a bit lacking: Right now, participating labels and publishing groups include Universal Music Group, EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, The Orchard, and Koch, which has resulted in some notable holes in the catalog. To wit: “They have a lot of those bullshit Maximum Metallica! CDs, so when you see ‘Metallica,’ it has a ‘downloads available’ logo but none of the albums.”

The download manager–the piece of ActiveX software that is the barrier between SpiralFrog and Mac users–is not all that advanced. “The download manager is really just an embedded thing on the right side of the page. It stays active while you browse around the site–you don’t have to stay in one place. I can’t find a way to change my queue other than remove stuff; like if I’m downloading a live Dissection album but want to hear “Head Over Heels” RIGHT NOW, i can’t find a way to bump it up. If you open the downloading program itself (it’s just an icon in the taskbar that never pops up) it’s really rudimentary, just ‘save to directory’ and those kinds of options.”

It’s still a bit buggy: “Parts of the site keep not working–I can’t view my profile, my last two downloads won’t go. I’ve had about a 25% fail rate on downloads, and it’s hard to find out what went wrong when it does crash/fail.”

Its database isn’t really attentive to detail: “Picky people will be annoyed that sometimes they give up on capitalizing track titles–it gives you a bit of the old Napster experience. ‘Where dead angels lie’ just looks wrong to me, and i’m the dick that would go through every single downloaded file and fix the capitalization and whatnot. But at least you’ll never have to download a Pink Floyd song called ‘We Don’t Need No Education’ or ‘Dark Side Of The Moon.’ ” Also: “For reissued stuff, even if they don’t have the original version, they just list the reissue date.”

But it could have a purpose… “If i just want to hear something real quick, I’d use it – it’d be a good way to decide if i want to buy something.” (Note: Our mole does, in fact, pay for music–his music budget averages out to about $50 a month, which may make him a bit more willing to seek out music than your everyday SpiralFrog customer.)

Even though the music recommendations might be a bit off. “Lacey from Rock of Love‘s band is ‘recommended for fans of Slipknot.'” Also: “If you like Iggy Pop, you’ll like Gene Simmons’ solo record.”

Gene Simmons’ solo record, eh? Well, maybe the site’s recommendation engine has “exhibitionistic tendencies” as a category. Anyway, the ‘Frog does sound like it could be an interesting, if somewhat flawed, experiment–although I suspect that the catalog’s holes will frustrate users if the out-and-out bugginess doesn’t first.

SpiralFrog [Official site]

* One of four Fall Out Boy songs in the site’s top 30. Other chart items of note: Hinder’s “Lips Of An Angel,” despite garnering half a star, is No. 26; the site’s top song is Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape.”