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Listen.com to License Music from HFA

In the second such deal this week by an independent Web music firm, Listen.com Wednesday said it has forged an agreement to use music protected by New York's The Harry Fox Agency Inc. (HFA), -- the licensing subsidiary of The National Music Publishers' Association Inc. (NMPA) -- for its digital music subscription service, Rhapsody.

San Francisco-based Listen.com, which hopes to hear Rhapsody go live by Dec. 3, will pay HFA an advance of up to $500,000 toward the royalties to be determined by the U.S. Copyright Office. If a rate is not set during the next two years, Listen.com will pay monthly advances of up to $31,250 until the rate is set; royalties will be payable on a retroactive basis from commencement of the licensed services.

This agreement is modeled on the terms of the agreement that the NMPA and HFA reached with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for licensing on-demand streaming and limited downloads offered by Internet music subscription services.

Under the agreement, Listen.com will have access to all music authorized by participating publishers to be licensed by HFA, which, as a representative of 27,000 publishers (and 160,000 songwriters), is the industry king for licensing reproductions and distributions of musical works.

Like many of the other pending music services, Rhapsody will feature streaming music-on-demand, Web radio and editorial reviews.

"Today's agreement is a continuation of our commitment to deliver music services that fully respect the interests of copyright holders. We're glad that the HFA and the NMPA are helping move the market forward by providing licenses to legitimate subscription services like Rhapsody," said Sean Ryan, president and chief executive officer of Listen.com. "This deal will allow us to launch Rhapsody in December of this year with a large body of music from the independent label deals we have signed to date, and simplify the process for adding major label content to the service in the coming months."

Listen.com joined FullAudio this week as the latest digital music service provider to ink an important licensing deal. On Monday, FullAudio said it had penned a deal to use Universal Music Group's catalog while Echo Networks tabbed Warner Music Group for similar provisions on Nov. 5.

Interestingly, Listen.com, which has financial backing from the Big 5 joins FullAudio and Echo Networks in competing with the very same Big 5, which are preparing to launch their own services, MusicNet and pressplay, this quarter.