It was easy to get excited last year when Vivendi (NYSE:V) unplugged its site and sent the popular domain to the tech masters at CNET (NASDAQ:CNET). After all, had gone from being a vibrant, happening forum for unsigned artists to a stagnant pond under the watch of major label Vivendi.

After months of waiting, artists were invited back this week, though not directly to the domain. The company has that particular domain earmarked as an informational site for digital music. Aspiring musicians are being herded over to the company's subdomain.

This week's launch was puzzling in other ways. While the original attracted more than 250,000 artists, CNET is not looking to become the Grand Central Station of garage bands. Rather than go with the 128-kilobit per second encoding standard of the original site, CNET has opted for the better sounding 192-kilobit format. In other words, artists will need to recode their music if they want to upload their MP3s to the new site.

Operating from a distant domain with restrictive uploading requirements may slow the migration near term, but you have to like CNET's chances of making this work. The one shortcoming of free online music distributors was that they spent more time marketing to fellow artists than the potential fans who would ultimately monetize the endeavor. CNET draws them in with popular news, software, video game, and price comparison hubs.

While Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) looks to remain the top dog in major label distribution, the opportunities run bright for CNET to beat out the smaller existing sites for streamed indie music. Blog sites like Google's or social networking sites like Friendster demonstrate that there is a huge market out there for companies looking to empower the individual. There is money to be made.

CNET's site may be the new home for aspiring musical artists, but it's been a software hotbed for years. So is your computer acting up lately? Snuffed out any interesting viruses? Do popup blockers and spam killers really deliver the goods? All this and more -- in the Viruses, hoaxes, & spam, oh my! discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz was one of the original artists and he is in the process of migrating his band's music over to the new CNET site. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.