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Yahoo looks outside its walls with new music service

Yahoo Inc. is partnering with other online music providers as the Internet giant tries a fresh approach to getting an edge in the evolving digital music business.

The new version of Yahoo Music unveiled on Monday, aggregates paid and free music services available on the Internet, allowing Yahoo users to access and interact with the services directly from the Yahoo site.

Yahoo has struck commercial relationships with digital music retailers like Apple Inc.’s, collecting a fee for every referral, the company said.

The move comes a little over a year after Yahoo announced it was shuttering its own paid-music service, and is in keeping with the company’s latest efforts to make Yahoo a more open service by integrating products and services developed by other companies.

“We really want to focus on providing the service that’s most valuable to users, and then partner with third parties to provide the entire set of music services,” said Yahoo Music General Manager Michael Spiegelman, who described the new Yahoo Music as a major strategic shift for Yahoo.

Visitors to the Yahoo Music site will be able to select from a variety modules representing the Web’s disparate music sites, including free, radio-like streaming audio services such as Pandora and last.fm music videos from Google Inc’s YouTube and paid music downloads from iTunes and Amazon.com.

The new Artist Pages on Yahoo Music will also offer a one-stop shop for people interested in particular singers or bands, offering everything from tour dates and concert tickets to photos and editorial content.

In all, the company said, Yahoo Music will offer music or information about 500,000 artists, about double the size of the selection Yahoo previously offered. The idea, Spiegelman said, is to provide a starting point for people to get information about any artist they’re interested in.

Yahoo Music was the No. 2 online music site in December, with 19.6 million unique visitors according to research company ComScore Time Warner Inc.’s AOL Music was the top site with 24.6 million visitors, while News Corp’s MySpace Music ranked third with 17.2 million visitors.

Yahoo, which is due to report its first-quarter financial results later this month, is in the midst of a broad reorganization effort led by CEO Carol Bartz who took the reins from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang in January. In the fourth quarter of 2008, Yahoo’s sales declined 1 percent year-over-year to $1.8 billion.

Yahoo had announced the new open direction it had in mind for Yahoo Music in September. The version unveiled on Monday is technically a “beta” test version, although the company said it is available to the general public.

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