Whats Wrong With Pressplay

By Scot Petersen  |  Posted 2002-01-07

Napster was founded in May 1999. I reckon that the smart minds in the music business have been trying to figure out since at least then what kind of business they can run on the Internet.

The latest result is not exactly a study in evolution. Pressplay, the creation of music giants Vivendi and Sony and affiliates Microsoft, Yahoo and Roxio (which develops the product formerly known as Adaptec Easy CD Creator), went live last month.

Ill be nice and call it a good first effort. But there are fundamental problems with the service and its attitude toward potential customers.

You can sign up for a free trial at www.pressplay.com, but in reality, you have to sign up for a subscription, which is almost as much fun as refinancing your house. Plans range from the basic, at $9.95 per month, to a Platinum plan, which costs $24.95 a month. And, if you sign up through MSN, you have to use Passport to sign into the service. Welcome to the world of dot-not.

A competing service, MusicNet, is available from partners RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI for $9.95 per month.

Just about everything that Pressplay touts as a feature is really a liability for customers. Just read through the terms and conditions agreement on the Web site. They practically scream to me, "Go buy the CD in a store."

There are limits on downloads, which is expected, but also on the number of times you can burn a track to a CD. On top of that, you can burn only two tracks by any artist in a month. All of this fun is enabled through Pressplay Client, which controls all downloading, listening and burning functions. The streaming part of the service is just as useless. Theres no support for portable MP3 devices.

Rather than open up the system, Pressplay merely duplicates the control the industry already holds over music distribution. Users should be able to buy a song online and own it without stipulations—not rent it, which is essentially what Pressplay enables. It is truly a step back in the effort to define the online music business.

Wheres my record player? Let me know at scot_petersen@ziffdavis.com.

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