Anybody who likes to search for song lyrics -- but doesn't particularly relish going to the sketchy sites that have traditionally provided them -- may cheer over Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) new lyrics search service provided with music database service Gracenote.
Yahoo! and Gracenote are teaming up to provide a lyrics service that will include the words to 400,000 songs from 9,000 artists. The service includes work from more than 100 music publishers like BMG, EMI, Sony/ATV (a joint venture between Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and Michael Jackson), Vivendi's (NYSE: V ) Universal Music Publishing, and Warner Music Group's (NYSE: WMG ) Warner/Chappell.
The two companies will offer the lyrics to users for free, sharing related ad revenues. They are optimistic because the sites that offer lyrics often do so in violation of copyright and are frequently incorrect; these will be the official versions of the song lyrics. Furthermore, the traditional lyrics sites are often heavy with pop-ups and spyware. (I can vouch for that -- I can't stand the pop-up ads on those sites and always feel uncomfortable with the thought that my computer might have picked up something nasty on them.)
The preview of the service looks interesting, too. Although users can search Yahoo! by lyrics or look for the lyrics for the current top songs, they can also find artist pages in Yahoo! Music and get the lyrics there, for example. And of course, along with the lyrics, there's the option to buy the song at hand, too.
Meanwhile, Gracenote's chief executive pointed out that this could be an interesting new revenue stream for music publishers.
It's an interesting maneuver, especially since Gracenote probably brings many of us immediate thoughts of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTunes, which has long used the Gracenote database to identify CD tracks that users import. Not surprisingly, Gracenote said it is in talks with other companies, including Apple, to provide similar services. Personally, I'd love to be able to access my lyrics through iTunes (and given iTunes' popularity, I can't help but wonder how it is that it wasn't first out of the gate with this service).
Yahoo! is definitely a strong contender in the music field -- albeit with plenty of competition, not only from iTunes but also from Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS ) , RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK ) , Time Warner's AOL, and so forth. Song lyric searches are among the most popular searches (among the top 10 performed on major search engines, according to the Yahoo!/Gracenote press release), so it's understandable that Yahoo! would feel optimistic about the traffic lyrics could bring to its site.
Given the music industry's ongoing malaise and the long existence of the renegade lyric purveyors, it's pretty amazing that it's taken so long for this opportunity to emerge. But then again, Gracenote said it's been working on this initiative for two years now. At any rate, better late than never -- lyrical search sounds like it could be music to many companies' ears.
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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a melodic disclosure policy.