PressPlay to Launch in September

By Robert Menta - 7/25/01

Vivendi Executive Vice President Edgar Bronfman Jr announced at Jupiter Communication's Plug-in conference yesterday that the joint Vivendi Universal/Sony music service PressPlay will launch in the first half of September.

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PressPlay, one of two major label offerings to enter the Napster arena, originally aimed for a summer release. A royalty dispute among the music publishers looked to cause a considerable delay, but even though it is still not settled the company is pressing on. There were concerns among analysts that an agreement with the publishers would push back the launch of PressPlay and the rival AOL/EMI/Bertelsmann owned MusicNet service significantly.

The new service will make its debut on the Microsoft Network and will offer songs in Microsoft's secure Windows Media format. PressPlay will also use's delivery and subscription management technology for its service, though it will not distribute music in the non-secure MP3 format.

MusicNet has not announced when it will open up shop, but this should put pressure on them to speed things up and make an announcement soon. Like PressPlay, MusicNet will eschew the MP3 format for alternatives that offer file security features. Real Networks, Microsoft's bitter competitor, will provide the digital technology for MusicNet, most likely an updated version of its Real Audio software. Another MusicNet partner, Napster itself, is developing a .NAP format that may also be adopted system wide.

Despite the optimism of the announcement, these two services still face several major obstacles, one of the most significant is that neither offer the music of all five labels. Bronfman concurred that this is an issue that needs to be addressed if the services are to be successful, though he also hinted at the difficulty for them to come to terms.

``I don't think Pressplay and MusicNet will merge, but both will (eventually) have licenses to all music,'' said Bronfman. ''I don't think it's going to take two to three years, and I don't think it's going to be tomorrow.''

Right now there is doubt about the about the ability for MusicNet and PressPlay to succeed. That doubt comes in the form of the Napster clones that have picked up a considerable audience in the wake of Napster's shutdown (see Napster Clones Crush Napster in Online Downloads). These services offer the music of all five labels, are free, and are more in tune with the needs of the user. The latter may be the most important point and one that probably elicited this very interesting quote from Bronfman, expressing some of the realities the record industry is facing with the evolution of Net music.

``We have to get out of the mind-set of selling round things (CDs)", Bronfman said, "and have to sell services''.


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