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MP3.com to provide "on hold" phone music

The Internet music company introduces a new service to serve up melodies to phone callers placed on hold, marking its latest effort to target business customers.

    Internet music company MP3.com introduced Friday a new service to provide melodies to phone callers placed on hold, marking the company's latest effort to target business customers.

    The new phone service, dubbed Music and Messaging On-Hold, will allow companies to manage music playlists and audio advertisements to be heard by phone callers via the Web.

    MP3.com said the new service is being offered in response to requests from several companies.

    Best known for its online digital music services for consumers, MP3.com is attempting to broaden its business by providing its content to corporations. The company recently established a Business Music Services division, formerly its retail unit, aimed at corporate customers.

    As part of its new business-to-business push, MP3.com has been offering the sort of background-music service often used by department stores, shopping malls, gyms, restaurants and the like. The commercial music service was introduced in November.

    After running into legal trouble last year concerning apparent copyright violations for its MyMP3.com consumer music storage service and being forced to pay millions in settlement fees, MP3.com signed licensing pacts with most of the major record labels.

    However, the licensing agreements only extend to MyMP3.com. Therefore, music by major well-known artists such as Madonna or the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears is unlikely to be heard on the company's new on-hold phone music service anytime soon. Instead, businesses will have access to thousands of unsigned acts in a variety of genres, from garage rock bands to accomplished jazz pianists to amatuer hip-hop artists. The lack of big-name artists could limit the attractiveness of the offering for large retailers such as The Gap.

    Meanwhile, sources say MP3.com is working toward making its new Music and Messaging On-Hold service compatible with the popular Muzak in-store music service. Such capabilities could enable MP3.com to sell the service, with its advanced features, to retailers that might otherwise be under contract with Musak or similar services.