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Music site debuts with big-name supporters

Times Staff Writer

A Santa Monica company whose investors include actor Will Smith is launching a website today that offers 10,000 high-quality music videos and concerts for free.

PluggedIn Media Corp. has the backing of three of the four major music companies: Universal Music Group, EMI Music and Sony BMG.

The site has raised more than $2 million from its founders and from Overbrook Entertainment, a production and management company whose principals include Smith.

PluggedIn is the latest social networking website that seeks to capitalize on people’s desire to discover and listen to music online as well as find others with similar tastes.

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“They want to consume a lot for free and make decisions later whether they want to own it or not,” said PluggedIn Chief Executive Jeff Somers, a former executive at Amazon.com Inc. and Zillow Inc.

PluggedIn said it would pay a fee to the record labels when it played their videos. Visitors who want to buy a song or a music video will be sent to Amazon.com and Apple Inc.'s iTunes store.

Rio Caraeff, executive vice president of Universal Music Group’s digital division, said online music videos had skyrocketed on the Web. “It’s the perfect snack-size entertainment,” he said.

PluggedIn says its video quality will be four times better than on places such as YouTube. The site, at www .pluggedin.com, aims to be the comprehensive destination for music fans and will offer content from other sources, such as fan blogs and news stories.

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But PluggedIn has to rise above the noise, said Russ Crupnick, an analyst with NPD Group.

“Everyone is trying to enrich music discovery as traditional retail starts to back down,” he said. “The challenge is not music discovery. It’s website discovery.”

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michelle.quinn@latimes.com

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