In an important sign of things to come in the music business, Universal Music -- the world's largest record label -- has agreed to make its entire music catalog available for free streaming (not downloads) to users of Imeem.com, a fast-growing music-focused social networking site. Universal Music -- whose catalog includes my personal favorite band of all-time, U2 -- is the last of the 4 major labels to strike such a deal with Imeem.com.
Of course, nothing is completely free -- the music labels are not, nor should they be -- philanthropic organizations. Universal Music, and the other labels, hope to make money by sharing in revenues generated by advertising viewed by Imeemers while they listen to those tunes. And, in a novel twist to the business deal according to the Los Angeles Times, "each play of a song will net Universal a guaranteed minimum of a fraction of a cent, even if no ads are viewed."