MySpace To Launch Online Music Company

(AP) News Corp.'s MySpace said Thursday it will launch a new online music venture designed to turn the social networking site's trove of musician profile pages into portals for selling everything from music downloads to concert tickets and band merchandising.

Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp. are participating in the joint venture, dubbed MySpace Music.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but each of the music companies will receive an unspecified equity stake in the new company, said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace co-founder and chief executive.

The fourth largest music company, EMI Group PLC, is not part of the deal.

DeWolfe said his company is in licensing talks with "everyone," but declined to say specifically where discussions stand with EMI, home to artists such as Coldplay and Norah Jones.

MySpace Music will function through the Web site's musician profile pages, enabling recording artists to sell music downloads, concert tickets and merchandise such as band T-shirts, the company said.

"We believe that the Web is becoming increasingly more social," DeWolfe said during a conference call. "MySpace Music is a new way of experiencing music online that everyone can participate in."

DeWolfe said some of the tracks for sale will be offered without copy-protection safeguards, but he noted that the major labels had only committed to experiment with offering some of their content available on the site in an unrestricted file format.

The company declined to discuss how the tracks will be priced or other revenue details.

The artist pages will also be able to sell ringtones via News Corp.'s Jamba mobile service unit.

MySpace has more than 5 million profile pages - from major label artists to independents to unsigned acts. All would eventually be able to take advantage of MySpace Music's offerings, the company said.

The various components of MySpace Music will roll out gradually over the next few months, DeWolfe said.

MySpace Music will operate as a separate company, with a president reporting to DeWolfe and to a board of directors that will include representatives from the recording companies.

Discussions between MySpace and the recording companies had been brewing for several months. MySpace and Universal Music managed to overcome at least one major hurdle to close the deal - a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Universal against MySpace in 2006.

Representatives for both companies declined to comment Thursday when asked whether a settlement had been reached.

Sony BMG is a joint venture of Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG.

Shares of Warner Music slipped 7 cents, or about 1 percent, to $5.72 in midday trading. News Corp. shares were down 2 cents to $19.98.

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