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"Rhapsody is a great outlet for our music, as the service balances consumers’ passion for digital music while respecting the rights of artists."
——Larry Kenswil, UMG's eLabs
RHAPSODY IN U
Streaming Music Service Pacts With UMG, Completing Major-Label Hat Trick
The dawning of a new era for online music? Well, that’s not really for me to say. But having music from all five of the Big Five don’t hurt.

In any case, Listen.com’s streaming subscription service, Rhapsody, has closed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, the last remaining holdout among the majors.

In addition to material from the Big Five, the 14,000 albums (or more than 175,000 tracks) available via Rhapsody include music from TVT, Bar/None, Sub Pop and a bazillion other indies, classical selections from Naxos (which can be burned to CD) and live stoner improv sessions from JamBase.com.

The service is available, at a monthly fee, from Listen and distribution partners Terra Lycos, Speakeasy, DownBeat, Naxos and JamBase.

Listen.com CEO Sean Ryan believes that the addition of UMG music marks a crucial threshold for the service. "You can’t expect to generate a sizable subscriber base without offering music from all the majors," he admits.

So why is it all coming together now?

"It’s a matter of obvious self-interest for the majors, with sales of hard goods declining and new revenues becoming an increasingly important part of the picture," he notes. "And for consumers, the free online experience is marred to a greater degree each day by pop-up ads, spyware, spoof files and other annoyances.

"You’ll never get rid of piracy," Ryan avers. "But we believe that at a certain point, paying for the breadth, ease and reliability of a service like ours becomes preferable to expending the time and energy required to find tracks for free. And we’re closer to that point than ever before."

"Universal Music Group is committed to making our music available to a variety of legitimate online services, giving consumers broad access to our roster of talented artists," insists UMG eLabs President Larry Kenswil. "Rhapsody is a great outlet for our music, as the service balances consumers’ passion for digital music while respecting the rights of artists. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m perfecting a plug-in that gives Morpheus users a severe electric shock every time they try to download an Eminem song."

Ryan and company believe that the next 18 months or so will see another threshold reached, as increased broadband and wireless uses, home networking and other services reach a wider audience. "Services like TiVo and Netflix are models for us," he points out. "We’re determined to find ways to create multiple revenue events for music."

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