Yahoo Music and Rhapsody Networks are live with the latest example of their partnership: full tracks served up with Yahoo U.S. search results. For instance, search for Bruce Springsteen and the top unsponsored result is a search box with links to five tracks; pick one and the FoxyTunes player pops up near the bottom of the browser. The music kicks right in. Browsing can continue and you can even use other screens. The catch: unless you’re a Rhapsody subscriber, full-stream play is limited to 25 songs a month.
Rhapsody, as you may recall, picked up Yahoo’s subscription music business when the portal shrugged it off as something that couldn’t gain enough scale. This move, part of an expansion of Rhapsody across Yahoo, meshes the power of Yahoo Search with Rhapsody 25 — a service Rhapsody already offers as its music gateway — a combo promo vehicle and ad-supported offering. (Yes, I know *Google* owns the search world but Yahoo still accounts for roughly one in five U.S. searches and that’s not peanuts when it comes to something like this.)
Michael Spiegelman, head of Yahoo Music, describes this as the first in a series of upgrades to the way music is experienced at Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). He didn’t pitch it this way to start but the best comparison emerged as we talked: IMDb plus media consumption. A couple of days later, IMDb added media consumption in the form of thousands of videos so the goal is even more apt. Yahoo is trying to play to its strengths by making music part of its fabric, not just a vertical, while at the same time recognizing its competition. Wikipedia has a lock on the bios, MySpace the artists, YouTube the video. What Spiegelman and company want to do is bring all of that material and more into the same space through search with streaming music as the extra. The next key area: artist pages due to launch in October and then opening up to artists, enabling them to upload media directly.
In the meantime, this gives Yahoo a differentiator, something no other major search engine offers. Will it make a difference to consumers?