We7 offers 500,000 tracks for free download

Music service offers free Sony tracks with built-in ads - although they're not that hard to remove

We7 has launched its free download service, with a claimed 500,000 tracks available from the Sony BMG label and independent artists.

The free tracks are preceded by a relatively unintrusive pre-roll advert that lasts for only a few seconds before the track starts.

The gratis tracks are DRM-free MP3 files, which means they can be transferred to virtually any digital music player. This means it's also relatively easy to strip the advert out of the track using audio software. It took us about ten seconds to remove the ad from a track, albeit at the expense of a slight drop in sound quality when the track is recompressed.

We7 says removing the ads breaks its terms and conditions. "Up until now consumers have really only had the choice to buy or steal," says Gareth Reakes, CTO of We7. "We7 offers a third option with our ad-funded approach. While it is possible to remove the advert, this would make the use of the music unauthorised.

"If users are unconcerned about this there are many ways to get music on the internet which would be much easier!"

The tracks are encoded at a decent 192kb/sec and, 28 days after downloading a track, customers can return to the We7 website and download an advert-free version of the song. Customers can have 20 of these advert-free tracks every month.

Registered users can download a maximum of 100 free tracks every day and no more than 500 every week, although there seems little to stop you registering for multiple accounts with different email addresses. The company does, of course, provide the opportunity to buy tracks or complete albums without the adverts.

With only one major record label on board, the library of available music is relatively thin compared to the likes of iTunes, although we unearthed some little-known nuggets, as well as The Kinks' back catalogue and modern titles from Leona Lewis and Mark Ronson.

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