Wrapped Up Like a Douche

Lyrics websites — those sites that appear on the first page of search engine results when you type a song name followed by “lyrics” — have proven themselves useful to me from time to time. Since my CD collection is locked away at home, when I need to look up the lyrics to Manfred Mann’s “Blinded By the Light” [Google], I can pick a site, any site (none of which I’ll link to here since they are so widespread, yet deceivingly similar),and I’ll see that Manfred is singing “Revved up like a deuce”. Rather handy.

My problem with these lyric sites is that they are essentially traps for personal information. Every one of these sites is set up to entice unknowing users into giving up their personal contact info. Every link suggesting you “download this as a ringtone”, “send this song to your phone”, “download this song”, “share this song with a friend”, “add to library”, is a trick to get the user to divulge their cellphone number, their email address, name, contact information of a friend, sometimes even the user’s secret login details on a social networking site. If it’s data, they want it for free.

I’m wary enough that I don’t provide them with any info, but not everyone is savvy enough to catch wise to the ruse. The promise of musical rewards in exchange for a verified bit of info is the bitwise equivalent of a Nigerian 419 scam, where the victim must put up something valuable first before the deal can go through. That deal never goes through. What happens, instead, is the victim’s contact info is collected, used and sold for unsolicited advertising. What you expect is a ringtone; what you get is marketing texts that won’t stop. What you expect is to share your favorite song with your best friend; what you get is you and your bestie dumped on by a mountain of spam.

Personally, I hope my friends and family are wise to this, but that is seldom the case. And that scares me.

My final complaint about the lyrics sites is that they are predatory money-mills for their owners. They’ve figured out the formula for maximizing ad revenue and minimizing cost per click by publishing these sites in bulk. Each site has its own domain name and templates, but they’re run on the same servers by the same companies. There are centralized databases of song lyrics behind whole groups of them; the same content is served by all of a group’s sites. There are companies whose only product is an interface to return lyrics for plugging into a webpage. The lyrics now mean nothing; they are bait. They are just a draw to expose users to a page full of advertisements. Each time an ad is served and presented to a user, that’s pennies in the bank. Draw enough users, and the site owner is raking in good income. Run enough websites, each as disposable as the one before it, and you are guaranteed a heavy income for almost nothing.

Honestly, I can’t begrudge anyone their ability to make money. We all have to survive. It’s just that I see it as a cheap move, and part of me is pissed that I’ve never been able to drop my morals low enough to try this kind of income stream. Slime molds grow on any surface. I don’t see an end to this kind of business model any time soon; the model of using a shedload of cheap, disposable gateway sites to lead the user (and their wallets) to a pyramidding series of websites has been around since the early days of Internet porn, and exists in some parts in the spamming world. As long as it’s cheap enough to flood the market with worthless content on cheap websites, each referencing the other in order to bump up their PageRank on the search engines, while raking in the cash while serving advertising, then this kind of model will persist.

Published by Shawn

He's just this guy, you know?