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Backers lend ear to Listen.com

Site secures $25 mil in financing, Snap.com deal

HOLLYWOOD — Listen.com, an Internet music directory launched three months ago, said Monday that it has secured $25 million in a second round of financing from several investors, including Sony Music Entertainment.

The San Francisco-based company also has inked a distribution deal with NBC’s Internet portal Snap.com, becoming a co-branded part of the Web service.

Besides Sony, investors in the music directory include the Barksdale Group and Hambrecht & Quist. Specific breakdowns of the investment were unavailable, but Barksdale was said to have contributed the most.

Previous Listen.com investors include Altos Ventures, August Capital, Austin Ventures, CNET CEO Halsey Minor and Gateway Computers CEO Ted Waitt, who are contributing funds this time as well.

Growth spurt

Altogether, Listen.com has raised $35 million this year, enabling it to double its directory service and grow to 85 employees since launching.

As part of the finance deal, former Netscape chief administrative officer and Barksdale partner Peter Currie will serve on Listen.com’s board.

“Listen.com has created the Internet’s most comprehensive directory of legitimate digital music,” said Fred Ehrlich, prexy of new technology and business development, Sony Music Entertainment. “The quality of that directory (has) quickly made them a destination of choice for music lovers on the Web.”

Golden future

Investors said they project Listen.com to take off as a business as more and more music fans turn to the Net for digital music downloads.

“The music industry is being revolutionized by the Internet,” said Danny Rimer, Hambrecht & Quist’s managing director. “As music over the Internet explodes, so will Listen.com.”

Listen.com links to more than 300 sites with downloadable music in all formats — accessing tens of thousands of music files.

It has inked syndication partnerships with Excite, Lycos and Macromedia, and formed content-distribution partnerships with e-music shops and record labels, including Amp3, Customdisc, Encoding.com, Emusic.com, MP3.com, Liquid Audio, Musicmaker.com, Tunes.com, Riffage.com and Palm Pictures/Rykodisc.

The Barksdale Group invests in a number of Internet sites, including HomeGrocer.com. Hambrecht & Quist invested in Listen.com through its Access Technology Partners Fund.

Sony steps up

Sony Music has been upping its investments in online ventures, shelling out dollars to OnRadio, Spinner.com, Launch Media, Yupi.com and Platform.net. Additionally, the company owns 50% of Columbia House, currently merging with e-tailer CDNow Inc.

As part of the Snap.com deal, the Internet portal said it needed a music director on its site, considering that more than 20% of its top search requests are related to MP3 and other such online music products.

Listen.com is used by more than 48 million people per month, according to Media Metrix.

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