Wow, what a mess of a launch this has been over the last few days. The Qtrax site, which claimed to have signed all four major record labels are now backtracking, and the whole venture has been thrown in to turmoil.

The New York based Qtrax launched at a glitzy ceremony in Cannes over the weekend, and claimed they were about to revolutionise the music industry, and how tracks are delivered to customers, by offering 30 million songs legally and for free.

This was going to be possible because of landmark deals which the company had signed with the four major record labels, Sony BMG, Warner Music, EMI and Universal. Tracks from all their artists were going to be available from Qtrax, and be funded by advertising.

Unfortunately it soon emerged that none of the deals had actually been completed yet. All four labels have now denied signing up to license their music to the site. EMI and Universal admitted to being in negotiations, but that no deal was done at the time of the much publicised launch.

So what’s gone down? There still seems to be some confusion over the service, and what it will actually offer. Some reports are saying the site will still launch as expected, while Qtrax themselves are still claiming the four majors are on board, and there’s just some fine print to be ironed out.

Alan Klepfisz, Qtrax’s chief executive told The Times:

“We are not idiots. We wouldn’t have launched the service in front of the whole music industry unless we had secured its backing. We feel we have been unfairly crucified because a competitor tried to damage us. Everyone is very upset.”

“We do have industry agreements including the major labels. Even today we are working on more deals.”

Either someone is lying, or has at least jumped the gun on announcing deals which haven’t actually been finalised, or there’s a genuine difference of opinion about what constitutes a done deal.

The Qtrax client was expected to launch today, but that seems to have been put on hold for now. I think this mess will take a while to be cleared up. Qtrax will get some publicity from the whole sorry farce, but whether any of it is good, is another matter.

This article originally appeared in on January 28, 2008.

Old Archives The Qtrax farce – Record labels deny signing any deals