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Getty Images sings new tune with purchase

Digital imaging giant Getty Images moves into the music licensing business by taking a 10 percent stake in LicenseMusic.com.

Digital imaging giant Getty Images has moved into the music licensing business, announcing today that it has taken a 10 percent stake in LicenseMusic.com.

Executives at Seattle-based Getty Images--which sells photographs, film, and video over the Internet--say the company is entering the music licensing business to gain a foothold in a burgeoning online industry. Forrester Research projects the market to grow from $848 million in revenues this year to $4 billion by 2004.

"We looked at what was happening on the Web and the convergence of music and images shows so much potential," Getty spokeswoman Laurie McEachron said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The move comes at a time when Getty Images is locked in battle with Bill Gates's digital imaging firm, Corbis. The two companies are in a race to build the largest digital image archives, and now Getty has upped the ante by branching into online music licensing.

Through the deal, Getty and LicenseMusic.com have agreed to cross-promote their products by prominently linking each Web site, LicenseMusic.com's chief financial officer Frank Sabella said. Both companies declined to say when the promotions would begin.

LicenseMusic.com--which license's music for film and television production, advertising, and video games--will benefit from the partnership by association with the well-known Getty Images. Analysts estimate that Getty Images will earn $360 million next year.

"It's a massive opportunity for both companies because our customer base is the same," Sabella said. "They can promote music and we can promote images."

Neither company will sell the other's products on its Web site, Sabella said, but Getty Images has plans to launch a portal sometime before the end of the year and LicenseMusic.com could become one of the featured sites.

LicenseMusic.com has about 600,000 soundtracks from 120 record libraries, Sabella said.

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