France starts download service Airtist

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PARIS -- The French market has its own ad-supported free music download platform, Airtist.

The service went live in mid-December and is available for free, provided visitors complete a free registration process. Users can then download a DRM-free track after having been exposed to a 10- to 30-second video ad. Full albums currently cannot be downloaded in one hit.

Airtist, which originally launched as a paid download platform in September 2006, claims a catalog of 20,000 tracks from 100 labels.

Only a fraction of this repertoire is also available in the ad-supported section, which includes tracks provided by French indie label XIII Bis Records. Tracks are downloadable worldwide when the record label allows it.

Airtist co-founder Laurent Magnin said each downloaded track pays 0.05 euros to the label, and 0.07 euros to authors and publishers collecting society Sacem.

"It is possible to make this model profitable," Magnin said.

Italian enterprise Downlovers claims to be Europe's first ad-funded free music download service. A joint venture between Milan-based Italian digital content provider Kiver and local promotions/PR agency It's Cool, Downlovers has been beta-testing since September.

New York-based Spiralfrog, which launched in September in the U.S., has yet to set a date for a European launch.
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