I liked the original concept behind We7 where you could download tracks with a short advert at the start but a month later, you had the option to download an advert free version. They stopped doing that some time ago and when I asked why, they made the excuse that very few people took advantage of the advert free download so they had decided to discontinue it. I didn't believe that reason then and I still think it's a daft excuse now. I think it's much more likely that they just couldn't get the record companies to buy into the model. Bah!
Now that they've lost this unique selling point, I must admit that I've more or less stopped listening to music on We7. For streamed music I now tend to use Spotify (which has a better interface and more of the music I want to listen to) or Last.fm (which has a good, established community of users).
Twitter posts and so noticed a recent development. They have been advertisong that you can listen to new music on We7 before it is available to buy. For example, you can listen to the new Green Day album, in its entirety on We7 just now (prior to its official release) and they've teamed up with the Gruniad to let you listen to Jarvis Cocker's new album (again, prior to its release).
I thought this was interesting for a couple of reasons. One is the tie in with a national newspaper. Papers have been giving away music CDs (and films on DVD for that matter) for a while now. By distributing through a site like We7, the paper can get the kudos (and I assume they hope extra sales) that come from giving away music without all the hassle and expense of packaging and distributing those pesky little silver disks. Papers seem desperate to attract younger readers which has produced some strange bedfellows (e.g. the Daily Mail giving away a Prince CD). So perhaps another reason electronic distribution appears attractive to the papers is they assume "the young things are doing it already" and so, by providing a streaming music service, they hope to be seen as hip and trendy. (The fact that I use a phrase like "hip and trendy" shows how far out of touch I am, so the last point may be nonsense.)
The second reason I think it's interesting is the change in business model it implies for We7. I guess the record companies like it because they don't have to give away something (i.e. a CD) that fans can keep and do with as they will. The companies can let fans (and potential fans) hear new material for free but can still reasonably expect that people who like what they hear will spend some money to buy it. In other words, We7 has gone from an innovate new way to deliver music to fans (while making money for record companies) to a glorified advertising mechanism for record company product. This makes me sad.
However, perhaps I'm being unfair. Certainly my daughters say that I am now officially a GOM (a Grumpy Old Man) so maybe that's too cynical a view. We7 have to make money somehow if they want to say in the business of giving access to a wide range of free, streamed music. If this allows them to keep growing and developing so that they can go back to more innovative distribution methods in the future, maybe its worth it.