LOS ANGELES - MySpace, which has lured millions of garage bands as well as big acts to build profiles on its popular social networking hub to attract fans, said Thursday that it will turn those pages into portals for selling music and merchandise.
Helping back the new MySpace Music are three of the biggest recording companies -- Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp.
Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but each of the music companies will receive an unspecified equity stake in the new company, according to MySpace co-founder and Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe.
DeWolfe said that MySpace is in licensing talks with "everyone," but declined to say where discussions stand with EMI Group PLC, home to artists such as Coldplay and Norah Jones, but not part of the deal.
MySpace Music, which will roll out gradually in coming months, will enable artists to sell music downloads, concert tickets and merchandise such as T-shirts through their profile pages, and to offer ringtones through a unit of MySpace parent News Corp.
"We believe that the Web is becoming increasingly more social," DeWolfe said during a conference call. "MySpace Music is a new way of experiencing music online that everyone can participate in."
Fans also will be able to stream audio and video for free through musical artists' profile pages.
DeWolfe said some tracks will be sold without copy-protection safeguards but noted that the major labels had committed only to experimenting with offering content in an unrestricted format.
Selling music without the copy protections that make such tracks incompatible with Apple Incorporated's iPod music players could place MySpace Music in direct competition with existing digital music stores such as Apple's iTunes, Amazon.com, Napster Inc. and others, analysts said.