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
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
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.