June 5, 2001 4:30 PM PDT

Radiohead "buddy" extends a hand

Fans of the band Radiohead now have a friend in IM.

Capitol Records on Tuesday introduced a new instant chat "buddy"--the first of its kind--designed specifically to respond to questions on the popular rockers. Timed with the launch of the band's new album, Amnesiac, the Radiohead buddy can chat about the band's touring dates, up-to-date news, artist bios and album info.

The buddy, named GooglyMinotaur after a character on Amensiac's artwork, is an exclusive on America Online's instant messenger service for the next two weeks.

The launch marks one of the first commercial uses of instant messenger, a fast-growing means of communication for families, friends and co-workers. IM networks have long been looking for a way to profit from the millions of people chatting via IM.

Capitol Records partnered with New York-based ActiveBuddy to develop the branded service earlier this year. For Capitol, using the chat window as a promotional tool could enhance a relationship with music fans and bolster sales. For instant messenger providers such as AOL, Yahoo and MSN, licensing room on their networks could mean added revenues.

ActiveBuddy plans to introduce a series of agents over the next several weeks, including ones that tap Reuters finance data, movie information and baseball statistics. A general-interest buddy under the name "Smarterchild" also will be introduced.

The buddies, or bots, are activated by a natural-language search called "buddy script" that can communicate with various content databases, such as Reuters, to pull up answers on topics at lightning speed, as well as other random questions. For example, by asking GooglyMinotaur "Where are my tickets?" the buddy will reply: "Probably where you left them." It then asks if you would like to download a Radiohead MP3 file.

Publicity for Radiohead's new album has been buzzing on the Net. Web giant Yahoo said last week that it would let people listen to Radiohead's upcoming album in its entirety before it was due out Tuesday. Yahoo devoted a portion of its Yahoo Music site to promoting Radiohead and the album. Fans can preorder the CD, watch the band's music videos and concert footage, download pictures and one track from the album, and bid on front-row seats for Radiohead's upcoming tour.

Capitol Records and Radiohead also plan to offer content such as archived interviews with Radiohead in partnership with MTV.com.

 

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