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Yahoo enables one-click song searching

September 18, 2008 |  8:23 pm

For all the bromides about online music being more accessible than ever, it’s not always easy to find. Typing a track or a band into a search bar may bring up a Wikipedia result, a YouTube video, the artist’s official site or a MySpace, iMeem or Last.fm page. But music is often several clicks away.

A Yahoo search for the Black Keys Yahoo’s new music search service strips away those steps.

In a new feature launched Wednesday night, Web surfers who type an artist’s name into Yahoo’s search engine will see as their first result a module filled with an artist photo, a link to lyrics, pop-up music videos and songs that play with one click in a simple pop-out player. The player keeps playing as long as the search results are up. At right it what you'd see for a search for the Black Keys.

"It’s a critical differentiator between Yahoo and competing search engines," said Jimmy Pitaro, who oversees entertainment for Yahoo.

Currently, the search function works for 10,000 artists, but Yahoo says it aims to have 100,000 within three months. And the player only offers four tracks, chosen by Yahoo, from each artist.

"Right now we don't want to bombard the user," Pitaro said, noting that the company was reviewing user feedback.

The streamed tracks are courtesy of Rhapsody, which in February took over Yahoo Music’s subscription service in exchange for prominent placement on Yahoo sites. That means music-seekers on Yahoo have to play their songs by Rhapsody’s rules: 25 free full tracks a month. For more songs, users ...

... have to subscribe to Rhapsody’s monthly streaming service -- $12.99 a month for unlimited listening -- or settle for 30-second clips. The player has not one but two links to Rhapsody’s subscription page.

"As more people experience legal music on demand [on Yahoo], hopefully they'll convert to subscription," said TAG Strategic analyst Ted Cohen. "It's not about owning everything. You can't own 5 million tracks."

The player also has a purchase button (in the shape of the universally recognizable shopping cart) that leads to Rhapsody’s MP3 store. That's key for the company as it tries to raise its profile and expand beyond the subscription service model.

Rhapsody launched the store in June, partnering with MTV networks and iLike along with Yahoo. The iLike relationship gives Rhapsody a foothold among social networkers on Facebook and a jump-start against the upcoming MySpace Music, which will allow free streaming and songs for purchase through Amazon.

Still, Rhapsody remains committed to subscription services, even as many players (including, of course, Yahoo) have moved away from the model. (See Jon Healey's column for more on that.)

"The general population is aware of subscription services, but they don’t understand them," said Neil Smith, vice president of business management for Rhapsody America. "Part of what we’re trying to do is get people in the front door and try it and see what it’s like."

-- Swati Pandey

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