The announcement marks the first major step taken by the company since it hired former BMG Entertainment executive Kevin Conroy as the head of AOL Music. Conroy was tapped to run all of AOL's online music efforts, which comprise Web radio service Spinner, Net music player Winamp and various promotions on AOL for new acts.
Since Conroy's appointment, AOL Time Warner has been quiet about its music strategy. But its latest steps are significant. As the largest Internet service provider, AOL may dictate the direction major labels--and online competitors such as Microsoft or Yahoo--take their own strategies.
For the announcement, the online giant launched the Artist Discovery Network, a service that lets AOL members listen to songs or read about artist information. The service will feature artist tracks and information from a number of independent and major record labels, including Arista, Atlantic, Warner Bros. and TVT. Artist Discovery Network will be available on the AOL service beginning Monday.
The company also unveiled Radio@AOL, a new Web radio service that offers programmed music channels and editorial content about artists. Radio@AOL will launch in the fall as an icon on the new AOL 7.0 software.
AOL Time Warner executives have put the spotlight on online music as a new growth area for the company. Since the merger of AOL and Time Warner, the company has used AOL to offer exclusive digital promotions for Warner Music artists such as Madonna and Rod Stewart.
The company is also a partner in online subscription service MusicNet, which lists RealNetworks, EMI Recorded Music and BMG Entertainment as its partners. MusicNet will charge people a monthly fee to access music from the labels and will launch later this summer.