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The secret to Imeem's rise: More music

Imeem is starting to stand out from the recent crop of music sites.

Imeem is starting to break away from the pack of countless music start-ups that have launched in the last two years. I hated the service when it first launched--confusing interface, unclear mission--but since then it's grown to become the third-largest social networking site on the Web with 27.7 million unique visitors--that's nearly double its traffic from last year. It's still well behind Facebook and MySpace, which are in a heated battle for top spot, but has been helped by MySpace's difficulty in launching MySpace Music, which is supposed to offer tracks from major label artists.

Thanks to this Imeem user, I now know how Steely Dan ended "King of the World" live.

Imeem already has revenue-sharing agreements with all four major labels, and while the company may be paying out more to the labels than it's earning from advertising (it won't discuss detailed financials, but admits it's losing money), this is the key to its success. It's not the social networking, it's not the ADD-inspired interface, it's not the wide range of opportunities for personal expression. It's simply that you can find almost any song on Imeem. Try it yourself--a free-for-all of individual contributors, combined with immunity from lawsuits and a search engine that actually works, makes this my go-to site any time I want to hear or demonstrate a song right now.

Plus, unlike other music-finding sites like Songerize (based on Seeqpod), Imeem sometimes surprises you with multiple versions of the same song. Take for example Steely Dan's "King of the World," the capper to their 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy. The jam at the ending is the best part, but, in a moment of masochism against the listening public, the engineer fades the song out just as the guitar solo's really kicking. So I always wondered--how would they end the song live? (They didn't play it on their 1994 reunion tour.) Now, thanks to Imeem, I know.