Update at 8:55 p.m. PST: Changed to reflect that NPR Music had the streaming debut of Paul McCartney's album.
Guns N' Roses fans who have waited 17 years to hear the rock band's new album are mere hours from having their patience rewarded with a free Web debut before it goes on sale next week.
Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy will make its debut on the band's MySpace page starting Thursday, according to a Reuters report Wednesday. Fans will be able to stream the album for free before it goes on sale Sunday in an exclusive deal with Best Buy. Listeners, however, will not be able to download tracks from the site.
Also reported to be debuting Thursday was Electric Arguments by Paul McCartney's side project group, The Fireman. However, Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired.com noted that NPR Music got the jump on MySpace by beginning its streaming of the album Tuesday.
The News Corp.-owned social network launched its MySpace Music service in September with the backing of the four largest recording companies. The service represents the most significant challenge to Apple--at least in terms of firepower--in some time. The site offers free streaming music and sells unprotected MP3 downloads, ringtones, and merchandise.
MySpace has long been a place where bands market their wares to the Web. According to MySpace, 65 percent of its users already have streaming music on their profiles and 6 billion songs are played every month.
The free exposure for fledgling performers sometimes has big payouts. The rock band Boston recently hired its new lead singer from a fan's tribute page on the social-networking site.