Rivals try to sing along with MySpace

Social-networking site's growing role as a powerful force in the music business is sparking followers.

Social-networking site MySpace's growing role as a powerful force in the music business is sparking followers, which are offering broader features for bands and music fans in hopes of attracting the giant's audience.

On Monday, relative newcomer TagWorld launched its own music ambitions with the support of a core group of popular indie rock groups, including The Shins and Death Cab For Cutie. Like MySpace, it's offering a home for bands to post songs and connect directly to fans, but TagWorld is hoping that its design attracts viewers more specifically interested in exploring and listening to music.

"We don't think MySpace is the finish line," TagWorld founder Evan Rifkin said. "We think that's just the beginning of ."

It might seem a little late in the game to be taking on MySpace in territory to which it's established an unparalleled claim. The social-networking giant is one of the few brands online, Google and Flickr being two others, whose name has become virtually synonymous with its function.

But even MySpace itself stole the social-networking crown from the space's leader, Friendster, to become a service viewed as an indispensable stop for record labels seeking to promote a new band.

Indeed, the mix of community and music is proving to be an extraordinarily fruitful one, as the Web moves through its second boom era.

Friendster itself struck a deal with peer-to-peer multimedia-sharing service Grouper Networks several months ago, aiming to add music and video to its portfolio. Music subscription services such as Napster, Yahoo and RealNetworks' Rhapsody all tout community and song-sharing features as a selling point.

TagWorld itself feels much like an amped-up MySpace, with a simple drag-and-drop page design interface aimed at the most tech-phobic users. Its music site lets bands post as many songs as they want on their home pages. It also lets listeners create playlists for themselves by selecting songs from different bands' pages.

For now, the new site has launched its services with a few marquee bands, and that might be enough to generate interest from others. For what it's worth, though, most of the bands launching on TagWorld on Monday still have their MySpace pages open for business.

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