The concept of ad-supported music ranges from relatively sensible to outright dumb.’s recently announced “smart ads,” which respond dynamically to the beat of the music being played, are relatively sensible. In-music ads, which consist of sponsored announcements that play before the song, are outright dumb. This has not, however, stopped trueAnthem, a purveyor of the latter, from raising a $2 million round of seed capital and getting the sneaker manufacturer Adidas to sign up for an ad campaign.

The non-wisdom of in-music advertising is obvious: An announcement before a song cannot be clicked, therefore its efficacy cannot be accurately measured. The ads, which the artists themselves record, are intrusive and awkward on the first listen. If you download the track, the ad stays with it, playing every single time the track is played. The approach makes sense if the goal is to make the listener dislike the artist and hate the advertiser, but based on trueAnthem’s website, this does not appear to be what the company is trying to do.

Ad-supported music has seen a number of fits and starts. SpiralFrog, which launched last fall, lets people download DRM-protected tracks in exchange for interacting with ads on its site. The company managed to land a deal with Warner Music Group, but it’s not yet clear that it will actually go anywhere profitable. Companies like iMeem and MySpace employ the model, but, as a recent piece in Silicon Alley Insider argued, thanks to the expectations of the major labels (a penny for every play), these companies won’t have an easy time of it either.

To be fair, trueAnthem’s model also incorporates sponsored widgets. These widgets let listeners stream or download an artist’s music and features the sponsor’s logo. Unlike in-music ads, sponsored widgets make some sense.

But it’s hard to have much hope for a company whose CEO promotes “product placement that’s staying with the song forever.”

One of the bands working with trueAnthem is Hootie and the Blowfish, whose brief glimmer of success, like trueAnthem’s funding, will remain a mystery for generations to come.

A trueAnthem widget for Kristene Mirelle, a classically-trained pianist who turned pop, is below.
Kristine Mirelle TrueAnthem Music