- pressplay, a joint venture by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, recently overhauled its service to give consumers more of what they want from online music. Now, pressplay’s competitors are pressing Universal and Sony to let them do the same.
In particular, they want better access to the two record labels’ music catalogs, arguing that it would violate federal antitrust law for the Sony Corp. and Vivendi Universal units to favor their joint venture over independent online music companies.
Antitrust investigators in the Justice Department already are examining the major labels’ licensing practices, as well as scrutinizing pressplay and MusicNet, a joint venture controlled by AOL Time Warner Inc., parent of Warner Music Group; Bertelsmann, which owns BMG; and EMI Group, which controls EMI Music Publishing. For their part, the record companies say their efforts have been completely lawful.
Is pressplay getting the inside track?
- On Aug. 1, pressplay launched a version that lets subscribers download an unlimited number of songs through the Internet for a flat monthly fee. Those tracks expire when the subscriber’s membership ends, but for about $1 more per song, subscribers can download permanent copies that can be recorded onto CDs or moved to portable devices.
No other subscription music service offers unlimited downloads from Universal, Sony or any other major record company. And pressplay makes available permanent copies of more Universal and Sony downloads than any other online outlet.
Sources at several independent online companies said they weren’t getting the same deals as pressplay, although labels’ offers have been improving dramatically. They say they’ve had trouble getting wholesale prices for permanent downloads and obtaining the same songs that pressplay does – especially from Sony.
But pressplay even if it does have an advantage, it’s only temporary – hey wait a minute…
- Mike Bebel, chief executive of pressplay, said that any advantage his company has in terms of licenses and features is only temporary.
“We understand that everybody is headed in the same direction,” Bebel said. “We think that the landscape will be pretty even not too long from now.”