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Listen.com Cuts Deals With Two Big Labels

Universal and Warner will allow users of the firm's online jukebox to make permanent copies of thousands of songs.

October 24, 2002|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

Internet music distributor Listen.com of San Francisco said it reached deals with two major record companies that would let subscribers make permanent copies of some of the songs on Listen's online jukebox.

The agreements with Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group and AOL Time Warner's Warner Music Group add an important new dimension to Listen's service: For an additional fee, subscribers will be able to listen to some major-label songs when they are not connected to the Internet. Starting today, subscribers can record tens of thousands of the labels' songs onto CDs at 99 cents apiece.

"It's hugely important," said analyst P.J. McNealy of GartnerG2, a technology research and consulting firm. "Portability and depth and breadth of the catalog are going to be the two most important things for music services. And getting [CD recording] into the service gets them partly down that path."

Listen's Rhapsody, an online jukebox and radio service that lets subscribers hear songs on demand, is the only authorized subscription service that includes songs from all five major labels. That distinction is expected to vanish soon, however, as two ventures owned by the record labels -- Pressplay and MusicNet -- fill the holes in their catalogs.

The labels have been slow to grant licenses that permit CD burning, in part because they would prefer downloaded music files to remain in copy-protected formats. Standard CDs have no such protection.

But in a recent survey of more than 2,000 adults and teenagers who use the Internet, McNealy said, GartnerG2 found that "if consumers perceive that things are being restricted, then they have a problem with it."

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