By AP Business Writer
updated 1/16/2007 12:55:43 PM ET 2007-01-16T17:55:43

Chinese search engine Baidu.com and EMI Music launched an Internet venture Tuesday that will let users listen to streaming music for free, adding to Baidu's growing entertainment business.

The venture will make EMI Group Chinese pop music by performers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere available on Baidu's Web site, the companies said. They said they would look into the possibility of offering free music downloads.

Baidu.com, which has more than 60 percent of China's online search market, has been expanding entertainment offerings in an effort to stay competitive in an industry where other Chinese Web sites combine search with entertainment and games, financial analysts say.

In October, Baidu launched a venture with Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks to distribute music videos and other programming online.

China has the world's second-biggest population of Internet users after the United States, with 132 million people online at the end of last year, and 30 percent increase over 2005, according to the government.

China trails the United States, Japan, South Korea and other markets in financial terms, but Internet companies are competing aggressively for access to its increasingly affluent consumers.

The new Baidu-EMI service will offer performers such as Taiwan's Jolin Tsai, David Tao and Richie Ren; Singapore's Stephanie Sun; and Hong Kong's Sandy Lam.

"While consumers listen to the music for free they will be exposed to Internet advertising, and EMI and Baidu will share the revenue generated by the advertising," the companies said in a joint statement.

The companies said the venture also might help to reduce China's rampant music piracy by creating a legitimate alternative to Web sites that offer unlicensed music downloads for free.

EMI's music labels include Angel, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Capitol, Capitol Nashville and Virgin.

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