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Music Subscriptions Heat Up

This week Vivendi Universal (www.umusic.com) and Sony ( www.sonymusic.com) changed the name of their subscription music service from Duet to Pressplay. No reason for the name change was given. The companies also announced new executives — Andy Schuon was named president and CEO, and Michael Bebel, COO. Pressplay will have offices in New York and Los Angeles.

Pressplay's service will let users download and stream songs on-demand once it launches in late summer 2001. Among the features are personalized play lists and sharing with other Pressplay members. The service made an agreement with Yahoo! to market.

In a statement, Shuon said: "Pressplay will introduce a new way for people to interact with the music they love. I am excited to be at the helm of a company on the leading edge of music, and I believe that the team Mike Bebel and I are putting together will bring a compelling service to consumers."

On Tuesday, MP3.com (www.mp3.com) announced it was re-launching its own subscription service. MP3.com Michael Robertson said in an online press event about the competition: "They're way behind. We were first to launch a subscription service over a year ago."

Interestingly, MP3.com is now owned by Universal Music, so there may be some synergies between these initiatives.

MP3.com's Premium Listener Service (PLuS) (www.mp3.com/premiumlistener), lets consumers access their digital music collection, create playlists, and burn CDs. Part of the service includes use of MP3.com's Beam-It software, which allows users to immediately load their online music lockers.

"Nobody wants to scrap their entire music collection when they sign up for an online music subscription service, which will likely only have a tiny fraction of the music they want to listen to," said Robertson in a statement. "Consumers want a platform where digital music expands their music collection, by allowing them to combine digital music with the CDs they own and devices like CD-Rs and portable MP3 players, which they use to get the most value from their music."

PLuS is available for $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year.

In other music news, FullAudio announced a three-year non-exclusive licensing agreement with BMG Music, for its own yet-to-be-launched music subscription service. FullAudio said it is currently working to get deals with all the major labels, since it isn't a part of MusicNet or Pressplay.

FullAudio is working on a cache-download technology to deliver music, unlike the other services that are focusing on downloading and streaming. James Glicker, president of Music Services at FullAudio and a former BMG executive said, "We are able to deliver CD-quality music at a much lower cost than streaming services — savings that FullAudio can share with consumers, record labels and publishers, artists, songwriters, and composers."

FullAudio said it is currently in testing mode but didn't state when it would unveil its music service.

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