- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

PressPlay (www.pressplay.com), available for just a year so far, is trying to prove to the music industry and consumers that commercial music and the Internet can work together.
The Los Angeles company adds nothing revolutionary to the traditional downloadable music scene, but it tries to attract paying customers with several levels of features and its overwhelming supply of hit makers, ranging from Aerosmith to Ziggy Marley.
"PressPlay is not unique because it is offering music online," says Seth Oster, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs for PressPlay. "Our goal is always to provide the consumer with a music experience that is high quality and as unique as their tastes."
Users with the Windows 98, 2000, Me or XP operating systems join PressPlay via a dial-up or broadband Internet connection. Life then gets slightly more complicated, however, as new customers must install a piece of software to easily access, download and listen to more than 175,000 songs culled from the catalogs of the five major music labels Sony, Universal, EMI, BMG and Warner as well as almost 20 independent labels.
PressPlay got its genesis when Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group executives recognized the obvious need to provide an online alternative for obtaining music. Then as now, pirating music online was of great concern to an industry that was watching sites, such as the now-defunct Napster, give away songs without offering the artists or labels any compensation.
"When an individual downloads or records a song from a pirate or illegal site, music site, they are stealing," Mr. Oster says. "And while music fans have been recording and sharing music since cassette decks first made it easy, the vast number of people that can steal music online has led to an unprecedented proliferation of [copyrighted] materials being traded around the world."
PressPlay delivers music in real time, providing studio-quality sound that is "as good as the user's speakers," according to Mr. Oster. Subscribers pay a monthly fee of $9.95 that allows members to listen to an unlimited number of songs.
Recordings streamed from PressPlay to the subscriber reside "behind the scenes" on the user's computer. These songs are tethered electronically, meaning that as long as the member has an active subscription, he or she will have access to an individual music library without having to be online. Once a subscription lapses, however, PressPlay will be able to pull those songs, rendering them unavailable to the former subscriber.
For users who want to own the music or program their own listening experience, PressPlay is the only online service to use CD-burning and portable-download recording technology. A "portable download" or digital music file is a recording that can be transferred from the computer to a broad array of devices, such as an MP3 player.
Subscribers can opt for either the $17.95 per month service, which provides 10 portable downloads per month, or the $179.40 per year package that allows for 120 portable downloads as well as unlimited downloads to the user's computer and unlimited live streaming of PressPlay content.
For the users who want an even vaster library of music, additional "download packs" offering five downloads for $5.95, 10 for $9.95 or a 20-pack of portable downloads for $18.95 also are available.
Other PressPlay features include a recommendation engine that helps users discover new or rediscover old listening favorites based on their present requests, an online community that includes message boards, and the ability to share music lists and review other members' listings.
PressPlay also will be offering its listeners exclusive music premiers, such as three songs from the upcoming Jennifer Lopez album or the soundtrack from the new Sandra Bullock-Hugh Grant movie, "Two Weeks Notice," before they are available online, on MTV or commercial radio or in the local record store.
Additionally, the service provides about 30 programmed "commercial-free" stations that allow users to choose from genre-based stations featuring alternative rock, country, hip-hop, jazz, pop, rhythm and blues, rock and hard rock or more eclectic fare such as the ELF station Eclectic Listening Favorites of random, diverse and dysfunctional holiday songs or the "All Elvis All the Time" station for fans of the "king."
For consumers unsure of its potential advantages or disadvantages, PressPlay has a free three-day trial membership.
Write to Joseph Szadkowski, Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC, 20002; or send e-mail [email protected]).

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