LOS ANGELES, July 1 (Reuters) - Independent online musiccompany Listen.com said on Monday it had clinched a licensingdeal with Universal Music, becoming the first Internet songprovider to feature content from the five major record labels.
Under the latest deal, Universal Music, a unit of mediagiant Vivendi Universal , will make its digitalcatalog of titles available to Listen's Rhapsody service.
Both Listen.com and another independent service,FullAudio's MusicNow, are competing with big-label backedservices known as MusicNet and Pressplay.
Industry analysts have remained skeptical that any of theseservices will take off, particularly since until now, none ofthem, including MusicNet and Pressplay, provided music from allof the big labels.
Besides Universal, the world's major labels includeBertelsmann AG BMG, EMI Group Plc , AOL TimeWarner Inc. and Sony Corp. <6758.T>.
The big labels, fearing rampant online piracy, are tryingto get these services off the ground as they move ahead withlegal efforts to shut down unauthorized services like Kazaaand other Napster clones.
An increase in licensing to independent services likeFullAudio and Listen comes as the big five have come underscrutiny by the Justice Department over whether they havewithheld their libraries from smaller competitors.
MusicNet is a joint venture of Warner, EMI, Bertelsmann andRealNetworks, while Pressplay is jointly owned by Sony andUniversal.
FullAudio has music licensed from EMI, Universal, Warnerand BMG.
All four subscription services charge monthly fees foraccess to music from their collections.
Listen.com is a streaming-only service, except for aCD-burning option in its classical offering. The other servicesoffering streaming as well as downloads on a limited basis.
(Sue Zeidler, Los Angeles, 213-380-2014))