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Universal Music Taps Social Network to Pitch Artists

Universal Music Group on Monday said it signed an agreement with music-based social networking Web site Imeem to provide free, on-demand streaming of its digital music and videos that will be supported by advertising.

Universal, which is owned by French media group Vivendi, is the fourth major music company to strike a deal with the Web site, following Warner Music Group Corp, EMI Music and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a joint venture between Sony and Bertelsmann.

Imeem, which says it more than 19 million users, allows users to create profiles and connect with each other by uploading MP3 files to create playlists, which they share.

Major record companies, including Universal, have been trying to strike a balance between curbing online piracy and forming partnerships with industry newcomers as they look for new ways to promote and distribute music to fans.

"Imeem has developed an innovative way to make our artists' music a central part of the social networking experience," Doug Morris, UMG's chairman and chief executive said in a statement.

"They've done so the right way -- by working with UMG to provide an exciting musical experience for consumers, while ensuring that our artists are fairly compensated," he added.

Imeem is the fourth most popular multimedia entertainment site in the United States after Google's YouTube, Google Video and News Corp.'s MySpace Videos, according to tracking firm Hitwise.

The Web site, based in Palo Alto, California, is backed by Morgenthaler Ventures and Sequoia Capital, which also backed YouTube before Google bought it for $1.65 billion.