This story was written by Robert Andrews.
Nevermind iTunes, EMI Music is going direct to fans with the surprise launch of a new EMI.com site featuring playlists, recommendations and, soon, the ability to purchase tracks from the label's artists. The new EMI.com - currently in "beta", just like EMI itself nowadays - is first and foremost a music discovery platform, full of artist bios, galleries, music and videos. But this new site goes farther than regular label repertoire sites, borrowing from social platforms like Last.fm by offering user-led charts, by allowing users to search for artists that sound like other artists (even those not on EMI's books) and by asking visitors to create a profile that will let them add playable tracks to manageable playlists.
Coming soon, EMI.com - built by Shamsa Rana with Perform - will offer embeddable widgets and a retail option that, we understand, may be powered by DRM-free specialist 7digital. There will also be interviews, concerts and back-stage footage. Digital special projects VP Alex Haar, in the release, calls EMI.com a "learning lab" and "the beginning of a longer term experiment". EMI told us it's not designed to compete with services like iTunes Store, YouTube or Last.fm - indeed, most music fans consume tunes from multiple labels. But EMI just volunteered to become another fully-fledged music destination site among many, in one of its first significant digital initiatives since the Terra Firma buy-out.
Seeding an app initiative: As T-Mobile USA, Google (NSDQ: GOOG), RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and others either build or plan for their own download stores in Apple's wake, O2 is lagging; availability of downloadable apps from its mobile portal is very limited, Parton said. But the apps Litmus users get most excited about could form the basis of a future app store from the company: "We're already having the internal discussions within Telefonica (NYSE: TEF). Lets assume that things go well and the model gets validation; we'd definitely be looking to roll out to other Telefonica markets toward the back end of 2009." Any eventual initiative would be the usual combination of aggregated apps found on other decks like Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) live! plus some unique apps developed at Litmus.
Speeding up the innovation "I've been just as frustrated as the developers and suppliers as to how long it takes to bring products and services to market. I've got the battle scars of launching lots of products and services on O2 - sometimes, we're not easy to work with. We realized 12 months ago that the way that we are organized internally is around delivering the big infrastructure products like SMS or MMS. But the world has changed, quickly and dramatically. With the advance of Web 2.0 and beyond, you're seeing massive fragmentation of the kind of things people are interested in." Facebook has rapidly added thousands of applications, for example, Parton said. "But we tend to do the big ticket items, one or two of them a year, not thousands of apps per day. The challenge for us is how to address that long tail of opportunity." So far, Litmus has taken 14 months from conception to go live in the UK. "Compared to most things telcos do, it's been quick," Parton said.
By Robert Andrews