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EMI will launch a website in December that will have a retail component but will not be positioned as a competitor to e-commerce sites that offer downloads.

The distributor, which counts Capitol, Virgin and Blue Note among its labels, wants to position EMI.com as a discovery-oriented site that connects fans of one performer with other, similar performers. EMI will offer some free downloads and other promotional materials via the site. It’s likely the site will also have a social networking component.

“This is not an effort to displace iTunes, Amazon or any other retail partner,” a person familiar with the site’s plans told Daily Variety.

The belief is that when fans search for artists by using Google or Yahoo, they are first directed to artists’ home pages or MySpace pages. By having EMI as a possible landing page, the company will be able to offer news or goods not offered at the other sites.

The site is part of the overall EMI digital strategy.

Attempts to run e-commerce sites limited to a single distrib or label have failed, most notably Sony Music’s Connect service.