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Yahoo cues up music site

"Music that listens to you," proclaims Yahoo's new music site, Launch. It's the company's attempt to become the next big thing in online music.

Yahoo on Monday debuted its music destination, Launch, which represents a departure in the portal's previous branding strategy.

The new subscription-based property is the result of Yahoo's acquisition of Launch Media in June. It's also a step forward in the company's fight with AOL Time Warner and Microsoft to become a hot online music destination.

The Launch unit, now a wholly owned subsidiary, will offer music-related content, such as photo essays, charts and artist features. The site will also give artists and music labels the opportunity to promote album sales and concerts on the site.

The makeover comes as Internet publishers and record labels attempt to take online music sales to the next level by offering limited access to Top 40 hits as part of paid services.

RealNetworks earlier this month became the first entrant, adding music to its popular GoldPass sports and entertainment programming channel, which it renamed RealOne. AOL Time Warner's America Online unit quickly followed with a test version of a similar product. Both charge $9.95 a month for access to music listings from MusicNet, a joint venture between RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI Group.

Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN Network, meanwhile, are planning to offer subscription services in partnership with Pressplay, a music service being created by Sony and Vivendi Universal. Yahoo said Launch will incorporate Pressplay when it becomes available, although no deadline has been announced.

Vivendi and Sony have delayed the service, which was originally promised to appear by summer 2001.

Although that service has yet to appear, Launch says it still offers members the ability to listen to and control the music experience.

"Music that listens to you," says the Flash show that greets viewers who click on the "music" tab of Yahoo's home page, sending them to the new Launch site. Subscribers can design their own video menu or choose an Internet radio broadcast from Launchcast.

The new unit is run by Launch Media co-founders Dave Goldberg and Bob Roback.

Launch is a step away from Yahoo's previous branding efforts following acquisitions. With purchases such as Geocities and Broadcast.com, Yahoo renamed them Yahoo GeoCities and Yahoo Broadcast.com at relaunch.

Yahoo continues to work to expand its content offerings through other acquisitions; earlier in December, it made an offer for HotJobs.com.