Election Section

EMI signs deal with online music company pressplay

By Ron Harris Associated Press Writer
Wednesday October 03, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — EMI Recorded Music will license its extensive artist catalog to pressplay, the online service that hopes to bring legitimate music downloads to consumers before year’s end. 

With the deal, EMI becomes the first of the five major labels to sign with both pressplay and MusicNet, two services set to launch later this year. 

MusicNet is a joint venture between BMG, EMI, Warner and Seattle-based technology company RealNetworks. Sony and Universal are the venture partners behind pressplay, and have promised their catalogs to that service. 

“This agreement represents another major step forward for pressplay as we prepare to launch our service,” pressplay president and CEO Andy Schon said Tuesday. 

“By combining EMI’s extensive library with the vast amount of music from Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group that we have already secured, pressplay will offer consumers the single most comprehensive online music experience.” 

EMI’s roster of popular artists includes Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Snoop Doggy Dogg. 

The massive expansion into online music sales represents uncharted territory for each of the top five labels. All have battled the tide of free music online made possible by Napster and other file-sharing programs such as Gnutella and Morpheus. 

Pressplay offers consumers direct delivery of online music. MusicNet is a platform consisting of record label content and the RealNetworks technology that can be licensed for use by distributors looking to build subscription music services. 

Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Aram Sinnreich predicts that pressplay and MusicNet can co-exist, and that the EMI crossover deal breaks the ice for other labels to follow. EMI focuses solely on music production and not on distribution, so it was the likely first candidate for a crossover licensing deal. 

“They don’t want to own distribution. They’re just a record company,” Sinnreich said. He said it would be some time before either service is perfected to consumer satisfaction. 

“I think that both services will continually have to be revamped and re-conceived for the next few years before the right features and the right price point is decided upon,” Sinnreich said.