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MySpace opens music store

Social networking giant MySpace is taking on Apple’s iTunes with a new music downloading business.

The new effort moves the site from a place to learn about bands by making friends and listening to tracks to offering a full-fledged e-commerce business. Amazon.com will run the e-commerce side and sell music downloads. Jamster will sell ringtones and various sponsors will offer free ad-supported streaming.

The first four integrated sponsors to advertise on MySpace Music are McDonald’s, Sony Pictures, State Farm and Toyota. McDonald’s will sponsor MySpace Music’s personal music player and give away a variety of free music downloads. Sony Pictures will be promoting its new comedy Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, with MySpace Music user profile playlist skins for a week. State Farm will have rotating ads among all pages including the Featured Playlist, the Personal Music Player and MyMusic where members create and edit playlists. Toyota will sponsor “Toyota Tuesdays,” offering free music downloads on MySpace Music’s Personal Music Player every Tuesday for a year.

The new effort comes after partnerships were created with three of the four major record labels including Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, back in April. EMI Music, the fourth of the majors, has recently signed on as well. This comes as record companies have been losing money on CD sales and are looking for new ways to monetize their businesses. While all four labels were slow to accept selling DRM-free MP3s for fear of copyright infringement, they all signed on over the past two years.

Independent digital music firm The Orchard is also a partner and will distribute its catalog on MySpace Music.

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