Back half a decade or so, there was a brief period of interest on the part of the labels in plans which would see them build their own download stores. The idea being that people so love Sony or Universal so much, they'd be happy to just stick to that brand's artists. There was even a half-hearted attempt to start building the idea of label-as-brand, with some CD commercials preceded by a label identifier.
The idea died out because the labels suddenly realised there was a reason they didn't all have their own branded shops on high streets selling just their stuff: people (generally) don't care about the label, they want to be able to get all their music in one place. The same logic applies to online stores, and the ideas were shelved.
Clearly, though, the plans weren't burned, as one of EMI's hapless new team has apparently decided it's the answer to all their problems/ The FT reports:
The digital project, which began this year, will offer audio and video content. Users will be able to buy music and download it. There will also be unique content and elements of the site will be free. EMI declined to comment further about its plans.
The record label wants to position EMI.com as a “learning lab” where people can discover new music as part of a broader digital strategy.
Learning lab seems to be a direct lift from EMI's own in-house terminology - I suppose at least they didn't go with "re-education camp".
At a guess, I'd say that the limited success of Hulu, NBC and Fox's walled garden for their US TV programmes, has probably convinced someone that the idea has legs; but the difference in scale between keeping a few TV shows off YouTube and blocking EMI's catalogue from the dark areas of the net, while licensing it to be used by retail sites, should have been enough to convince them that the idea is little more than a way of burning cash to no good end.
And who's going to turn to a record label to discover new music? It's like looking for a twelve-step programme from a brewery.