January 22, 2002 1:20 PM PST

Pressplay slips onto MP3.com

Pressplay said Tuesday that it has launched its online music subscription service on MP3.com, whose technology division provides a blueprint for the Pressplay service.

Pressplay, a joint venture between Sony and Vivendi Universal, said MP3.com joins MSN, Roxio and Yahoo as affiliates of the online music service. Vivendi, which said in August that it had acquired MP3.com and would use the online music company's technology to digitally distribute various content, has long been expected to offer Pressplay on the MP3.com site.

People pay a monthly subscription fee to access Pressplay's online music library, with songs from Sony, Universal, EMI Recorded Music and independent labels. People can stream, download and burn the music onto CDs.

The announcement comes as the online music landscape continues to shift from the age of free downloads to an era of paid services. Late last year, Sony and Vivendi unveiled Pressplay shortly after rival MusicNet began offering its service to RealNetworks' and America Online's customers. MusicNet is a coalition between RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI.

Although subscription services are working to quickly attract new users, analysts expect limited interest in the paid offerings as long as free file-swapping services, such as LimeWire and BearShare, are available. Phil Benyola, a digital media research associate for investment company Raymond James Financial, said he expects slow growth for paid music services until the people running file-swapping sites "realize they can't make money doing it for free and people start to realize that the quality is better on other services, such as Pressplay."

But he added that if free services fall by the wayside, it's the "major conglomerates that are really going to benefit." Companies such as Microsoft, AOL and Vivendi "have numerous offline and online properties that the content owners will want to distribute--not just to an e-mail account but everywhere," Benyola said.

Pressplay declined to provide the exact number of subscribers it has registered since its launch, saying only that it has signed up "thousands" of music fans.

"Online music services like Pressplay are new consumer propositions," said Seth Oster, a spokesman for Pressplay. "We recognize that this is going to be a process that is going to take place over time and...we don't expect--and never have--a million customers overnight. But...we are very pleased with how strong it has launched and how many subscriptions we have generated in a very short time."

 

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