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Gateway grooves to EMusic

The companies team to promote EMusic's MP3 subscription service, offering music fans free MP3 downloads as part of a trial offer.

EMusic, owned by Vivendi Universal, and PC maker Gateway said Monday that they have teamed to promote EMusic's MP3 subscription service, offering music fans free MP3 downloads as part of a trial offer.

Under a joint marketing program, the companies said that any consumer could sign up for the 30-day trial and legally download up to 100 free MP3 files from EMusic's library of more than 215,000 tracks. Participants would be able to keep the music, which can be burned to CDs and copied onto portable MP3 players, regardless of whether they decide to continue with EMusic's subscription after the trial period.

The announcement comes as online music subscription services beef up their offerings as a way to entice consumers and steer them away from free file-swapping services. One of the main ingredients for a successful online paid music service is not only content from the big five record labels, but also portability, according to analysts. So far, a few services have begun testing those waters.

On Monday, Liquid Audio and an EMI division launched a service that lets subscribers burn tunes to a CD or transfer them to portable devices. Meanwhile, Listen.com said it plans to let some songs on its digital music service, Rhapsody, be copied onto CDs. Pressplay, backed by a consortium of major record labels, lets subscribers burn a limited number of songs to CDs each month, and another service by RioPort allows people to download music on to MP3 players.

While EMusic faces intense competition to carve out a space in the online music arena, Gateway is also aiming to create a niche for itself in the music publishing and distribution process, in a move to outpace its rivals. Gateway already has a site, MusicZone, where select singles can be legally downloaded. In the future, the company's involvement could extend to launching Web sites with a larger selection of music and may also include promoting new artists.

"We're trying to show people how easy it is to access music legally on the Internet, because we're not advocating peer-to-peer sharing and things like that," said Rick Griencewic, director of digital audio solutions at Gateway. "We don't want people thinking that Gateway is out there pirating music and avoiding copyright laws and not playing by the rules."

EMusic and Gateway said that people can sign up for the service on their promotional Web site. EMusic's monthly service has two models: a flat fee of $14.99 per month for a minimum three-month commitment or $9.99 per month for a one-year commitment.

EMusic's library includes an eclectic collection of songs by artists ranging from classic rockers Creedence Clearwater Revival to alternative bands Pavement and Yo La Tengo, and numerous jazz and blues greats.