The domain remains the same. The song is what has changed.

CNET (NASDAQ:CNET) launched its new site over the weekend after a five-month hiatus. Those who remember it as a place to check out unsigned artists with over a million free complete streams and downloads won't recognize the place. The new site is a portal for purchasing digital downloads from mainstream artists.

Before the 250,000 artists that once congregated at the site to gain exposure, share tunes, and bond with fellow musicians let out a collective "sellout" groan, they should consider the big picture. If succeeds, there will be more opportunities for all melodic purveyors. Besides, there is more to the new than meets the eye.

The one knock on music sites in the past was that there wasn't a viable way to monetize the chunky bandwidth required to serve up music files. The new skirts that with its affiliate relationships with over a dozen online retailers. It is they who will ultimately serve up the tracks and compensate CNET for its matchmaking services.

Broadening its reach beyond its namesake MP3 format, is also supporting Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes Store as well as the upstart services that have opted to encode in the WMA format, including Roxio's (NASDAQ:ROXI) Napster, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), and RealNetworks' (NASDAQ:RNWK) Rhapsody.

But CNET hasn't completely abandoned the garage bands that built up the original It recognizes that it was a popular haven. According to CNET Senior Vice President Vince Broady, the homepage was drawing 100,000 visitors daily even while it was shuttered. Last month, it launched its subdomain as an alternate solution.

In talking to Broady two weeks ago I was walked through a demo of the site and treated to the most optimistic assessment of the music industry that I have come across. Broady argues, quite convincingly, that music consumption has accelerated with the proliferation of high-capacity portable players and a growing use of streaming music while online.

"They're going to run through the catalog a lot faster," he claims and it's hard to dispute that. Yes, physical CD sales have fallen for four straight years, but tack on the widespread use of legal and illegal file-swapping and we have certainly become more enamored with the idea of scoring our everyday lives.

The new is also teaming up with CNET's comparison-shopping site,, to help drive CD sales. Along with an editorial bent for fresh content, and the addictively clever Musicvine option where you enter the name of a popular artist to get a visual presentation of similar artists, the new is promising in so many ways.

If Musicvine could be incorporated into the music site -- or if both music sites are ultimately woven closer together so that each could capitalize on the other's audience -- that would be music to just about anyone's ears.

So have you given the new site a spin? Were you one of the 250,000 artists on the old site? Where do you see unsigned bands fitting in when it comes to the digital revolution? All this and more -- in the Foolish Musicians 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 was an active promoter of the unheard through and he is upbeat over CNET's plans. However, he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.