With Weeks Before the Scheduled Launch, Many Questions Remain Unanswered
With the planned launch of their online music service Pressplay slated for late September, execs at Sony and Vivendi, the companies behind the joint venture, have been curiously tight-lipped—even when given the chance to brag about it.

At the recent Jupiter Media Metrix Internet music conference, Vivendi Universal Executive Vice Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. refused to disclose how much Pressplay’s service would cost and also declined to demonstrate how the service would work, according to The New York Times. And this just minutes after rival service MusicNet—the AOLTW, BMG, EMI, RealNetworks joint venture—wowed onlookers with its demonstration.

Company executives at Pressplay and Vivendi Universal cited competition as the reason for their silence, whereas Sony execs simply declined to comment at all. In fact, little new information about how the service will work or what exactly it is has trickled out since Sony and VU changed the name of it from Duet to Pressplay (hitsdailydouble.com, 6/11).

It’s not exactly the best way to engender confidence, which may be why some analysts think the companies are being quiet because they have yet to sort things out.

"It's almost academic to argue the merits of this because no one knows what it is going to be," Jupiter analyst Aram Sinnreich told the Times. But, he added, if the service remains as currently, if only vaguely, described, "it is not consumer friendly enough to sell."

What is known about Pressplay so far is this: The subscription-based service will contain several tiers of service, including streaming music and downloads, and the cost will vary depending on how much consumers stream or download. While the service currently only includes Sony and Universal music, Pressplay chief Andy Schuon told the Times the company was currently negotiating licenses with independent labels, although he stopped short of naming which ones.

But the company still must receive the necessary licenses from music publishers to proceed in September—which, by the way, is just a week off.

According to the Times, some publishers have already begun preparing lawsuits. "I'm hoping it doesn't come to that," said Martin Bandier, chairman of EMI Music Publishing, which has yet to reach agreement with either MusicNet or Pressplay. "Tell those people at Pressplay, they've got to bite the bullet and pay."

Jupiter’s Sinnreich emphasized that in order for Pressplay to succeed, the music offered must be abundant, affordable and transferable to portable players. In the beginning, Vivendi Universal executives say, downloaded songs will not be portable.

"Nobody is exactly sure how this will work out for the consumer," Schuon told the Times. "I expect it to change and transform many times."

There is, of course, no rush, as Pressplay has a whole couple of weeks to get it all sorted out.