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After several months of open rumors, EMI has relaunched its flagship web site as a music discovery destination. While direct purchase will be enabled soon, the real purpose of the site is voyeuristic. The company wants to watch and learn as consumers search for, discover, enjoy and purchase music from the EMI roster.

"It will help us gain even more knowledge about consumers' preferences," says EMI exec Alex Haar. "Those insights will be invaluable to our artists, helping them respond to fans in a more relevant way. This is the beginning of a longer term experiment." The Welcome page reads:

This site is all about bringing you closer to the music and the music makers.

Pretty big ambition you say?

Well that's why we see it as more of a journey than a destination, so we will be continually updating the site with improved functionality and new features.

Please bear with us, we are in beta, and don't forget to give us your feedback.

FIRST LOOK: So far, the site is available only in the UK and US and offers an imeem-lite experience sans ads and with only EMI artists. Only those who register can "listen to music and watch videos, manage playlists and buy," reads the FAQ, but the buy feature is not yet enabled. UK songs streams are full length, but US visitors can only hear 30 seconds – a certain consumer turn-off. Widgets and other add-ons have been promised soon.

The web site was re-designed by Shamsa Rana, managing director of Imdad Capital Ltd, but the initiative is being driven by a new team of digital executives recruited from Google, Second Life and other tech companies. Their goal is reshape EMI as competitive Music 2.0 company.

So far the site offers less than other music destinations. But while it will need the bells and whistles to attract traffic, being the most cutting edge is not the goal. Gathering data and observing the consumer online is.

New efforts may need to get speedier, however, than the months it took to launch this site. The world economy is sliding, CD sales are tumbling and EMI's own massive loan payments are looming. They will also need to get more aggressive with full song streams worldwide along with free downloads, exclusive offerings and more.

EMI has the roster, resources and new executive talent to be a leader. Their ability to turn this large ship and navigate the tricky tides of artist demands, rights holder restrictions and industry fears, as much as their own efforts, will determine if they succeed or fail. cracks the door open. It's time to kick the door down.