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AOL hits the road with Madonna

The AOL Time Warner division is offering advance Madonna concert tickets and other highlights on the Web as it pushes forward with its music strategy.

    America Online is hitting the concert trail with the Material Girl.

    The AOL Time Warner division said Thursday that new AOL subscribers will be first in line to land seats at pop diva Madonna's first world tour in eight years. AOL members will be able to buy tickets online Monday before they go on sale to the general public.

    The move represents AOL's latest efforts to beef up its music initiatives by taking advantage of its Time Warner properties. Madonna's record label, Maverick, is distributed by Warner Music Group.

    With the completion of AOL Time Warner's multibillion-dollar merger, AOL has been working to expand its relationship with Warner Music Group and other properties in the combined company.

    Former BMG Entertainment executive Kevin Conroy was tapped to head AOL's online music initiatives. And AOL has worked with Warner Music Group since last year to promote musicians on its service, most notably for Madonna's recent "Music" CD.

    "AOL has not been much of a music brand recently," said Aram Sinnreich, an analyst at Jupiter Research. But, "Kevin Conroy and his team are in the process of putting together what will probably be one of the largest and most successful music destinations on the Web, and this is a good way to kick off public awareness as a music brand."

    AOL Time Warner's cross-promotion plans extend beyond music. The Internet and media giant has begun infusing AOL's Internet promotional services into many of its traditional media divisions, such as magazine publishing and the studios.

    Last month, AOLTV, Moviefone and New Line Cinema--all divisions of AOL Time Warner--announced plans to let interactive-TV viewers buy tickets via advertisements for local showings of "Blow," a movie starring Johnny Depp.

    In its latest promotion, AOL said it is working with touring company Bhakti Tours to sponsor the Madonna Drowned World Tour, which begins this summer. AOL said it will offer new subscribers a chance to purchase up to two tickets for any date on the U.S. tour, but they are required to maintain the service for at least three months.

    Through its recent partnership with Ticketmaster, AOL said new members can subscribe beginning Sunday and then purchase tickets the next day, when current members can also buy tickets. AOL said it has an undisclosed allotment of tickets for both new and old subscribers.

    AOL Time
Warner package The company also said it plans to showcase Madonna's performances online and provide chats, tour photos, video clips, interviews and other features for AOL subscribers.

    AOL's promotion "is part of an overall strategy that seeks to create lots of value to our members as well as encourage people to become members," Conroy said. "And we think music is a big part of what an overall entertainment experience is."

    Conroy said AOL has also started to work with other musicians outside of Warner Music, including Janet Jackson, who's signed to EMI Recorded Music's Virgin Records.