HITS Daily Double
"We have worked hard to create a compelling online music experience, with unique programming, a broad selection of the world's most popular music and the freedom of portability."


VU-Sony Online Sub Service Has Finger on Button, Threatens To Push It
And now there are two... major-label sub services, that is.

Pressplay, the Vivendi Universal-Sony online-music joint venture, will be made available to subscribers tomorrow (12/19) via affiliates MSN Music, Roxio and Yahoo! And, shortly thereafter, through MP3.com and other sites.

Users will be able to test-drive the service for 14 days, during which time they'll be able to download 20 tracks, listen to 200 streams and kick the tires. The press release, which is longer than War & Peace, says this free trial will be available "for a limited time only." It does not say, "Operators are standing by."

In any case, once online music heads are hooked on the service—symptoms include clammy skin, sleeplessness, paranoia and tuneless humming of this week's chart hits—they can fork over the monthly fee for a steady fix. Here's how it breaks down: $9.95 for the Basic Plan of 300 streams and 30 downloads; $14.95 for the Silver Plan (500 streams, 50 downloads and 10 burns to CD); $19.95 for the Gold Plan (750 streams, 75 downloads and 15 burns); $24.95 for the Platinum Plan (1000 streams, 100 downloads and 20 burns) or $75.99 for the Happy Ending Full-Finish Plan (one stream, four eggrolls and an odd burning sensation).

If users stream tracks for 30 seconds or less for sampling purposes, the stream won't count toward their subscription's allotted number. They'll also be able to share playlists, helping to fuel further discovery on a P2P Napster-inspired model. And kids will love the parental controls, which enable Mom and Dad to protect the wee ones from objectionable music, like Kenny G or Mantovani. Oh, scratch that. It keeps the tots away from Eminem until they're at least, oh, 10.

But don't order yet. For a short time, Pressplay is sweetening the deal by offering the Silver Plan at the Basic Plan price. But wait, there's more! Yes, you get the downloads, the streams, the basic price and this handy grapefruit zester, all for—wait, scratch that. The grapefruit zesters are out of stock. How about this Larry Popeil pocket fisherman?

Oh, yes, and the music will come from UMG, Sony, EMI and numerous indie labels, like Roadrunner, Razor & Tie, Matador and Rounder.

"For people passionate about music, today marks a new way to experience the world's most popular music that is easy to use, reliable and secure," proclaimed Pressplay Generalissimo Andy Schuon. "And by 'today,' of course, I mean 'tomorrow.' But hey, that's publicity's problem."

Added Schuon, "We have worked hard to create a compelling online music experience, with unique programming, a broad selection of the world's most popular music and the freedom of portability. OK, I think that covers it. Oh, did I mention the world's most popular music?"

Some managers and artists have raised a ruckus over the authority of Pressplay and rival service MusicNet to use their music, and claim they've been offered no say in its deployment or the manner in which they'll be compensated. The issue is a long way from being resolved, but be assured we'll cover every excruciating chapter. But that's a story for another day.

In other Pressplay news, indie artist and pro-Napster agitator Tobyslater has posted a web page satirizing the major-backed service. The "PressPlayster" site pokes fun at paid downloads, the RIAA, Metallica and other foes of unfettered file-swapping. It also features a rhapsodic quote about Billy Ocean from "Metallica drummer Skeet Ulrich," a graphic of the "Sony TetherMan" (an MP3 player attached to a ball-and-chain) and more. Thus far, no equivalent send-ups of MusicNet have been reported.