on Monday will
announce plans to relaunch its popular music site, part of a
strategy to create a music-oriented Web community and battle intense
The relaunch, set for March, will include continuous
streaming audio and video, breaking news, and a "library" of music
information, the company said. It also said its new community, dubbed
The Online Music Network," will help "bridge the gap between
television and the Internet."
Also in March, the company plans to debut new additions to the SonicNet
roster of sites, which includes Addicted to Noise, video-on-demand
site Streamland, the Alternative Buyers Guide, and
international editions of its flagship site.
Along with "making a new SonicNet site," the relaunch is the beginning of an expansion of SonicNet as a network, Nicholas Butterworth, president and editor in chief of SonicNet, said today.
"SonicNet the brand will still be focused on 18- to 24-year-olds and cutting-edge music," he said. "But the new sites will make SonicNet a platform for any kind of music people want."
Butterworth declined to comment specifically about the new sites, but said they will "broaden SonicNet's focus to include other genres and musical tastes."
However, the Internet music scene has not proven profitable despite its
potential for easier and cheaper distribution, sampling, and sales of music.
Analysts have estimated that online music sales make up less than 1 percent
of the roughly $40 billion-a-year music business.
Although online music companies such as SonicNet and N2K (owner of Music Boulevard and
publisher of Rocktropolis, Classical Insites, and Jazz Central Station)
have loyal customers, they're still waiting to generate sustained profits.
Butterworth noted the difference between SonicNet's strategy and that of some competitors.
"A lot of the focus on the Net has been in CD sales," he said. "Long term, we think having a consumer brand is going to be really important in the music space. We're focusing on content to do that."
In December, SonicNet's parent, Paradigm Entertainment, announced a merger
with TCI Music, a unit of cable giant Tele-Communications
Incorporated. The deal closed earlier this month.
Although the buyout bolstered SonicNet's finances, some industry analysts
have speculated that TCI's conservative style (its interests include Family
Channel and the Discovery Channel) may limit SonicNet's ability to offer
controversial content. One example: SonicNet's news area covered the recent
flap over the song and video, "Smack My Bitch Up," by the band Prodigy, but
Streamland would not play the video.
"If people think [the merger of SonicNet with TCI Music] is a big corporate sellout, they're definitely in for a surprise," Butterworth said. "In this case, bigger really is better. There will be much more here for everyone."
SonicNet is aware of the risk inherent in being owned by a media giant. But
in announcing the relaunch, the company vows, "Remaining true to its
audience, SonicNet will continue to feature breaking news, live chats,
artist interviews, live broadcasts, and on-demand music videos."
And Butterworth defended SonicNet's new parent as being more laid back than its reputation. "TCI is trying to become more friendly to creativity," he said. "They have not imposed anything on our culture."