At the pinnacle of the Napster war, there was no shortage of angry devotees sending e-mails proclaiming "I'm no pirate!" to recording industry higher-ups. No better time for New York City-based EverAd Inc. to present chronic downloaders with a way to get free music without incident.
EverAd's PlayJ (www.playj.com) product promotes antipiracy by pairing encrypted digital music files-from Aphex Twin and Tina Turner to Eminem and JayZ-with targeted visual marketing from 600-plus advertisers like CBS, Levi's and Banana Republic. Ads appear even in offline mode and can't be minimized or bypassed. WinAmp and Microsoft Media player plug-ins have also been developed, along with partnerships with online media companies like Launch.com and Filmonsale.com. Revenue from ad sales (more than $1 million to date) and ad-related e-commerce sales is split with content owners and distribution partners. "It's a new business model for [record] labels," says co-founder Assaf Ben Haroosh, 23. "They have to get used to it quick with MP3s."
Haroosh ran an ISP in Israel for three years with co-founder Tomer Weisberg, 23, before the latter thought of attaching ads to software. But a couple months after starting the company with two other friends, Lior Cohen and Itay Baz, both 23, Haroosh proposed doing the same with digital music.
While you might not yet find Madonna among PlayJ's 65,000 titles, Haroosh, part of EverAd's MIS team, is content in knowing that a large Israeli label has licensed all its tracks: "I like to listen to songs in Hebrew, so it's a private joy."