Listen.com wraps two major labels into Rhapsody

Listen.com Inc. announced Tuesday that it has signed deals with major labels EMI Recorded Music and BMG Entertainment Inc., the worldwide music division of Bertelsmann AG, allowing it to significantly expand the music offered in its Rhapsody streaming music subscription service.

Rhapsody, which launched in early December, already boasted some classical and independent-label content, but did not have any major-label weight behind it until now.

Because of a recent agreement with The Harry Fox Agency, the licensing subsidiary of the National Music Publishers' Association, Listen will be able to quickly incorporate EMI's artists into the Rhapsody service, the company said.

Some of EMI's popular artists include Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton and Pink.

In order to legally offer copyright music, both the performance and mechanical rights to the songs are required.

Listen.com's music subscription service is attempting to go head-to-head against its high profile rivals MusicNet and Pressplay, both of which are major-label backed. MusicNet, which launched a day after Rhapsody, was formed by AOL Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann AG, EMI Group PLC and RealNetworks Inc. Pressplay is backed by Vivendi Universal SA and Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

Both major-label ventures offer downloads in addition to streaming music, as opposed to Rhapsody's streaming-only model. Listen is aiming to offer a fully loaded Internet jukebox, however, and said that it will continue to try to rack up deals with a variety of labels.

Still, it is too early to tell if any of the music subscription models will take off with consumers. For now, all the players are working to offer as much content as possible.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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