The Web's Most Intriguing Music-Related Issues & Destinations. This Week: MP3.com/CNET, StealMyMusic.com and Thereminvox.com.

PASSING THE TORCH: One of the pioneer sites of the Internet music biz is set to change hands, as CNET Networks has inked a deal to acquire the assets of MP3.com Inc. from VUNet USA, the Internet arm of Vivendi Universal. Financial terms were not disclosed, but published reports suggest that VU, which acquired MP3.com from founder Michael Robertson for $372 million in 2001, was offering the assets for less than $1 million.

CNET, a San Francisco-based technology publishing company, says it plans to revamp MP3.com next year into a Web site that will be "the place you go to know" about music. The company does not plan to launch a download store as part of the overhaul, but says it plans to target a similar demographic to the one that visits its gaming content site, GameSpot.

MP3.com recently sent a notice to its users saying the site will not be accessible in its current form as of Dec. 2. MP3.com currently features music from more than 250,000 independent artists, as well as promotional tracks from a range of major and independent labels. The site, which was launched in 1997, was one of the earliest players in the digital-music world, a hub where emerging artists could post files of their songs and nurture a fanbase.

The deal is the latest move in VU's exit from the online music space. Last month, VU sold the assets of digital service EMusic to Rye, N.Y.-based Dimensional Associates LLC for an undisclosed sum.


MUSIC FOR A STEAL: No, they aren't offering Britney or Jay-Z albums, but the precocious music retail site StealMyMusic is giving away free CDs. And that's not just a promotion, it's the site's whole concept. Run by Thrive Audible, a musician-founded promotions company, StealMyMusic offers CDs from unknown bands for free, or more accurately, for the cost of shipping, which amounts to $2 or less per CD on average.

"Steal My Music is about getting quality new music into the hands of shoppers, creating new distribution channels and promoting independent artists," says Thrive Audible co-founder Cliff Spence in a statement.

The site solicits music from unknown bands or artists looking to grow their fanbases, and allows customers to sample the tracks. Then they can be bought in much the same manner as any other retail site; customers provide credit card information with which to charge the shipping costs, and the music is sent on its way.

StealMyMusic was created as a sister site to Transit CD, a retail store that focuses on selling independent music at more traditional prices.


GOOD VIBRATIONS: Many of today's musical instruments have a long history, reaching back centuries. But one that is inextricably linked to the electronics age is the curious Theremin. Created by Russian student Lev Sergeivitch Termen (aka Leon Theremin) in 1920, the boxy, antennaed instrument has been utilized by artists as diverse as the Beach Boys and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Thereminvox.com is a hub of information about the Theremin, its history and its many uses. It also features an audio library with MP3s and midi files by accomplished Theremin players as well as a forum for the public to submit its own recordings.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print