Hello computer: Radiohead plays on Yahoo

Summary:Radiohead fans thwarted by the record industry's legal hold on Napster have another place to hear the British rock band's new album before its official release.

Radiohead fans thwarted by the record industry's legal hold on Napster have another place to hear the British rock band's upcoming album before its official release.

Web giant Yahoo said Friday that it will let people listen to Radiohead's upcoming album, "Amnesiac," in its entirety before it's due for release June 5. Yahoo will devote a portion of its Yahoo Music site to promoting Radiohead and the album. Fans can preorder the CD, watch the band's music videos and concert footage, download pictures and one track from the album, and bid on front-row seats for Radiohead's upcoming tour.

The Radiohead promotion will last throughout June.

Yahoo's promotion underscores partnerships between the record industry and online media companies that attempt to reach fans online. Through the Web, record labels are hoping to generate hype before album releases with exclusive offers and sneak peaks. Music fans have turned to the Internet as a source for tunes, largely because of the popularity of the controversial Napster song-swapping service.

The deal with Yahoo is not exclusive. Capitol Records, the division of EMI Recorded Music distributing the album, has let fans listen to "Amnesiac" through its Web site. Along with that preview, people can explore art work from the band and order copies of "Amnesiac." The album can also be heard on Heavy.com, a high-bandwidth entertainment site.

In a separate announcement expected next week, Capitol Records will launch its first branded "activebuddy" to market Radiohead's new album. The buddy, which sits on a chat program's friend list under the name Googlyminotaur, will let fans pull up fast answers on the band's tour dates, song lists and bios, among other tidbits.

Capitol announced in April a deal with New York-based ActiveBuddy to develop the buddy.

Other online companies have been attempting to attract people to their services by putting musicians on their marquees. Earlier this month, Microsoft Network and America Online offered high-profile promotions on their respective Internet services.

Microsoft's MSN hosted a chat with pop star Janet Jackson and gave its subscribers first crack at buying a limited number of presale tickets for her tour.

AOL Time Warner has repeatedly touted its ability to cross-promote within its network of companies. AOL Time Warner, which owns America Online and Warner Music Group, recently gave its 29 million subscribers dibs on Madonna concert tickets. The company has previewed upcoming album releases from other artists associated with Warner Music, such as Rod Stewart.

Internet companies such as Yahoo also have turned to music promotions as a way to differentiate themselves from the pack and to structure deals with the record labels. Such agreements could be important to the Web portal, which has come under tremendous scrutiny in recent months for its sagging online advertising sales. The company has been hit hard by the market downturn, which has caused many of its former advertisers--Web start-ups--to close shop.

Wall Street is watching closely for signs that Yahoo can replace the lost dot-com advertising by inking deals with more established companies.

The company recently appointed Terry Semel, the former co-chief executive of Warner Bros., as its new CEO and chairman. Semel, who replaced outgoing CEO Tim Koogle, has been tapped to turn Yahoo around by figuring out how to shift away from just advertising and developing new revenue streams. With his contacts from his former job, Semel could inject more entertainment promotions into the Web portal.

News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.

Topics: Microsoft, IT Employment, Start-Ups

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