NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Online retailer Amazon.com is preparing to offer a digital-music service, according to a published report.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Amazon (Research) executives have held talks with record-label executives in the past two weeks about licensing music, according to people familiar with the discussions. They reportedly discussed a music offering that would include options such as song-by-song downloads and a monthly subscription service.
The newspaper also reported that Amazon has discussed tapping MusicNet, a New York distributor of digital music, to support the service. The Seattle-based online retailer indicated that it is interested in launching a digital-music service in the fourth quarter of this year, according to people who have been briefed on the discussions.
The newspaper also reports the company posted a job listing on its Web site for a content acquisition manager for "our forthcoming Digital Music Service." This employee "will seek and license digital-music content worldwide, including content from major recording labels and independent recording labels and artists," the posting said.
The newspaper reports that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he wants to increase the digital content offerings on the site.
"Digital media is very important to us," he told the newspaper, referring to short films and Web casts it has been offering for free. "The immediate reason we're doing those things is it brings traffic to the Web site. It does let us stretch our legs and figure out how to do massive amounts of streaming and video downloading and so on."
But an Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on company plans.
With the move Amazon would join a growing but already crowded segment of online retailing that includes Apple Computer Inc. (Research), Napster (Research) and RealNetworks Inc. (Research), among others.
Josh Bernoff, an analyst at market-research firm Forrester Research Inc., told the Journal he wouldn't expect Amazon to have a big impact immediately. But Bernoff said Amazon has managed to differentiate its offerings in other highly competitive markets, such as selling compact discs.
"They are particularly good in environments where there are thousands of other choices," he told the newspaper.
For a look at Apple's plans for digital video downloads, click here.