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Verizon taps Listen for music plan

The local phone giant will offer Listen.com's music subscription service to its customers, one of the largest distribution deals yet for the music services company.

Verizon Communications said Wednesday that it would offer Listen.com's music subscription service to its customers.

The distribution deal through the local phone service giant marks one of the largest yet for the San Francisco-based music services company, which has chalked up a strong series of similar broadband deals in recent months.

As with other distribution partners, including Road Runner, DirecTV DSL and Charter Communications, customers will pay $10 a month for unlimited access to a huge--but still far from complete--library of music from the five major music labels and a long string of independents.

"It's like having a jukebox right in your PC," John Wimsatt, a vice president of marketing for Verizon Advanced Services, said in a statement.

Although subscriber figures remain unavailable for any of the major music subscription services, these services are finally approaching widespread availability. Many of the biggest broadband ISPs (Internet service providers) now offer services from Listen or competitor Full Audio. The music label-backed Pressplay service remains available though Yahoo and MSN, and the competing MusicNet service through RealNetworks' subscription plan.

Licensing restrictions on the music, however, have kept the services lacking basic features that many online music fans have grown to expect with unauthorized music download services such as Kazaa or Morpheus. Most of Listen's music is streamed, so that it must be played through a computer connected to the Internet, for example.

Pressplay and MusicNet boast the ability to download, and Pressplay offers some limited ability to burn CDs and transfer the songs to portable devices such as MP3 players. Most of the services are expected to include expanded CD-burning rights by the end of this year.

Despite the growing availability of the services, analysts do not expect substantial revenues from the monthly subscription services this year.