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Net radio firm Spinner.com adds downloads

America Online's Net radio company is spinning into something else altogether: a music download site.

America Online's Net radio company, Spinner.com, is spinning into something else altogether: a music download site.

In a move that aims to position Spinner as a stronger competitor to the growing number of sites that let computer users collect and store free audio tracks, Spinner unveiled an MP3 music download service today.

Using Spinner's Playlist-to-Go, which will be compiled by the site's editors, Net users can gather more than 1,400 songs to play via Spinner's site through its newly incorporated Winamp MP3 player, handheld music devices such as the Diamond Rio, and eventually car and home stereos.

In June, America Online acquired Spinner and music technology firm Nullsoft in a deal worth $400 million. San Francisco-based Spinner offers more than 100 different music channels, which it estimates 1.7 million unique users can listen to through the company's streaming technology.

Spinner's main competitors to date have been companies such as NetRadio and Viacom's newly purchased Imagine Radio. Earlier this month, Viacom's MTVi unit relaunched its music sites including SonicNet, which uses Imagine's technology to preprogram songs or let visitors create their own playlists.

But now AOL wants Spinner to be more than a Net radio station.

"Playlist-to-Go is the next step in our strategy to create the best and most comprehensive offering of online music available anywhere," Ted Leonsis, president of AOL interactive properties, said in a statement.

By pushing MP3 downloads and its portable playlist, AOL is pushing Spinner into segments crowded by download clearinghouses such as MP3.com and services such as MyPlay.com, which lets people access their digital music collections from any online device. Today, Music.com also announced that it is hosting free downloads in MP3 and Liquid Audio formats from DreamWorks Records.

AOL's strategy with Spinner also targets at its portal rivals; Yahoo and Lycos, for example, each offer digital music downloads and music sellers. Although Spinner doesn't sell music, it directs visitors to albums for sale from Amazon.com and EMusic.

Like many music download sites, Spinner's download area will be overrun with independent artists, not popular songs released by major record labels. Through its partnerships with companies such as EMusic.com, K-tel, Mammoth and DreamWorks, however, Spinner will have access to some promotional material and full tracks by well-know artists, such as Bush and Third Eye Blind.