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Yahoo! to Market Duet

Its official, everyone is getting in on the online music game. Thursday, Yahoo! threw its hat in with Duet, the digital music subscriptions service formed by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. Under this agreement, Yahoo! will present and market Duet through its portal and music pages. The Duet subscription service is expected to launch this summer, and pricing will be determined at the time of the consumer launch.

According to the announcements, the service will launch with streaming audio only, but should be adding downloadable offerings shortly thereafter. The announcement of Yahoo!'s agreement with Duet caused its stock to jump 20 percent this morning.

This relationship is not exclusive for either party, and a spokesperson for Sony Music Entertainment confirmed that Duet will be actively looking for other distribution partners.

Microsoft also piped up this week with the beta release of its music service, streaming only, which was the result of the company's acquisition of Mongo Music last year.

And MTV, the name that dominated music and changed the nature of music stardom in the ‘80s and ‘90s, has stepped into the new millennium. MTVi partnered with Rioport.com to offer paid music downloads, reportedly from all five major record labels.

Confused yet? According to Steve Vonder Haar, a Yankee Group analyst, the future is anything but simple, "We are looking at what will be a very splintered fractured marketplace — the dream of a Napster, of a one-stop clearing house for all online music distribution is dead."

It is no coincidence that these announcements coincide with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on digital music held this past Tuesday. Jonathan Potter, executive director of Digital Media Association (DiMA), which represents new media companies, believes that the supportive environment created by Senator Hatch's decision to hold the hearing has made the content parties increasingly eager to do business. That and "the growing recognition that Napster's protégée would be even more of a threat unless there is a legitimately licensed alternative," said Potter.

The majority of existing digital music service companies can be found in the member roles of DiMA, including MusicMatch.com, MyPlay.com, Liquid Audio, and Listen.com, to name a few. These companies have been struggling to provide listeners with quality music, while the record industry held tightly to its content and the hoards flocked to Napster. Now the labels and the big portals are jumping in the game; but according to Potter, the members of DiMA welcome this opportunity, "The members of DiMA are ready to compete, and what needs to happen is to prove out the business model. With the record industry getting involved, it opens up an opportunity."

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