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Yahoo's New Tune: YouTube, iTunes in Music Site

Yahoo today launched a revamped music site that leans heavily on other big names in the Web music business: Apple iTunes, Google's YouTube and others.

The result? With tour dates listings, music videos, downloads, streaming music, album purchases and editorial content, Yahoo's (NASDAQ: YHOO) new customizable Artist Pages is aimed at helping fans experience and purchase their favorite music online, the company said in a statement.

Originally conceived as a closed service that was restricted to proprietary use, the re-launched Artist Pages "represents the first major effort by any online music site to truly open itself up to best serve music fans who use multiple online music products and services," according to Yahoo.

To customize their own Artist Pages, users can select among modules offering iTunes, Amazon.com, Last.fm, Rhapsody, Pandora, YouTube and Yahoo. In the future, fans will also be able to create and self-publish their own Artist Pages as Yahoo opens the platform to any musician, artist or record label that wants to get in front of Yahoo's audience. Yahoo Music features over 500,000 artists, according to the company.

"Artist Pages leverages the scale of the Web and Yahoo's massive audience to create something totally new, open, social and original which we believe will attract a new generation of music fans and Web users to Yahoo Music," Michael Spiegelman, head of Yahoo Music, said in a statement. "Artist Pages is a major game-changer for the digital music industry."

Mike McGuire, a senior media analyst with Gartner, told InternetNews.com that Yahoo's challenge will be to make the music service compelling enough to draw in new fans who aren't already using online music sites, as well as those who do but aren't heavy users.

"We've did surveys of how people find content online, and it's interesting, because even with the rise of social networking sites, the dominant way is still through generic search engines, so Yahoo has an opportunity to take advantage of that large amount of traffic they get every month," McGuire said. "There's still a big chunk of people who don't buy music online, so if they can pull them in by providing a path from generic Yahoo search to a compelling site with content and links, it could be interesting."

He added that the content and related features could make or break the site.

"People who like to get their music online have already established solid behavior, they use iTunes, they go to music magazines online, they've got those access points and already created links to those sites," McGuire said. "So they may not get a lot of those people, but if the service has a value-add -- reviews, info on a new song, a seamless way to buy tickets and other related content -- to pull in people who buy from Amazon or iTunes occasionally, it could work out well for them."

Meanwhile, the obvious benefit for Yahoo will be added revenue, he said, both in terms of affiliate cash earned by sending traffic to, say, Amazon and iTunes, as well as from advertising at the site once it gathers a significant audience.

"In the start, through affiliate deals, if Yahoo is driving sales to Amazon or iTunes, it may not be that significant," he said. "But over time, it could be a huge chunk of change, especially if it grows a big audience and they can serve lots of ads too."

The move marks the latest effort by Yahoo to open up its sites and its technologies, with sites that feature customizable designs and ties to third-party content and services.

Most recently, Yahoo's music revamp mirrors tweaks to its mobile strategy, in which Yahoo provides customized portals that act like a home page or starting point for users. Yahoo last week took a big step in beefing up its mobile strategy by announcing Yahoo Mobile Web -- essentially a user-customizable, ad-supported mobile portal -- along with a specialized version for the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone.

The app and Web portal provide a centralized location for users to search and browse information as well as check e-mail and social network updates. They can be customized by adding bookmarks, RSS feeds and news from other sites.

Yahoo spokesman Cory Pforzheimer recently told InternetNews.com that the concepts underlying Yahoo Mobile could be making their way to other areas of the company.

"'Metro,' the code name for the new home page we're testing, that will be taking similar things into account in terms of personalization and customization," he said.

Update adds comments from McGuire.