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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 16:47 GMT
Getting the best out of net music
Pressplay
Pressplay is the latest net music service to launch
As Pressplay and MusicNet launch their rival systems, offering users access to music online at a price, BBC News Online's Alex Webb surveys the current legitimate online music service market.

The music industry has been fighting to reclaim internet music from unofficial sites and pirates after being stung into action by the activities of sites like Napster, which enabled users to swap and download music files regardless of copyright law.

Click here to see the online music services profiled

The "majors" - Sony, Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner, and BMG - have used their muscle and giant music catalogues to create two new services, Pressplay and MusicNet.


It will be incredibly hard to compete with illegitimate services

Paul Brindley, industry analyst
Pressplay is working with Microsoft and is jointly owned by Sony and Vivendi Universal - but also has access to the EMI catalogue.

MusicNet is owned by EMI, Warner parent company AOL Time Warner, and BMG owners Bertelsmann. It also has access to Zomba records' catalogue.

Question mark

Other legitimate services include Listen.com, MP3.com, Emusic and Vitaminic. Many of these services champion indie groups and grassroots music - though some also have access to the major's catalogues too.

A question mark hangs over Napster, which did so much to create a market for music downloads on the internet.

In a surprise move earlier this year, Napster was bought by the music major BMG, and has since announced its intention of returning - after a blizzard of law suits - as a legimate, paid-for music service.

But Napster's relaunch has been repeatedly postponed - it is now set for early 2002 - and many analysts are asking whether its user base will be prepared to pay for music it once accessed for free.

'Complications'

It is a question which worries all the companies trying to make the new market work.

Music industry analyst Paul Brindley told BBC New Online: "The complications of sorting these services out legally, technically and commercially mean it will be incredibly hard to compete with illegitimate services - which don't have these kinds of restrictions.

"And it's unlikely there'll be much take up of these services until they provide what consumers actually want," he said.

The major players in the internet music market are as follows:


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Pressplay

Pressplay
Pressplay is affiliated with Microsoft, Roxio and Yahoo! and offers music from the Sony and Vivendi Universal record catalogue.

It offers the ability to stream, download and burn, but is so far only available in US and its territories.

The service works with Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Me and Windows XP - but is not supported on Windows 95, Windows NT, or Macintosh.

Using the Windows media player, subscribers are able to make their own CDs, using up to two tracks per artist per month.

Pressplay claims an impressive roster of artists, including Aaliyah, Coldplay, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Miles Davis and Sade - but many of these are "coming soon" and not yet available.


MusicNet

MusicNet
MusicNet offers music from the BMG, EMI, Warner and Zomba record catalogues.

The service uses RealNetworks technology and offers both downloadable and streamable music - but is not yet fully operational and is currently only available through RealNetworks' RealOne service.

Music Net says it will offer downloads from Radiohead, WuTang Clan, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Fatboy Slim, among many others.


Rhapsody on Listen.com

Listen.com
Rhapsody has not attracted the fanfare of the majors' own services, but it has licensed music from all of them.

It offers "dozens" of free radio stations and an "extensive" database of information about any artist, album, or track across some 400 genres.

For a monthly subscription fee, users get unlimited on-demand playback of any music in their chosen catalogues and free access to more than 50 internet radio stations.

The service requires Windows XP, ME, 2000, 98, or NT or Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 - or later editions.

Its catalogue includes tracks from Coldplay, Hank Williams, Miles Davis, Oasis, Robbie Williams, Sade, the Rolling Stones and Madonna.


Vitaminic

Vitaminic
Vitaminic has cultivated grassroots and indie labels, working with more then 1,400 of them - but also with the majors BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner.

The company says it has a database of more than 374,000 tracks from some 86,000 artists in 250 music genres.

Users can stream and download tracks through a subscription service, which lets users to download unlimited music for a half-yearly or annual fee.

The service works with Windows 95, 98, ME or 2000, Windows 3.x or Windows NT, Unix/Linux, Macintosh, MS-DOS, Amiga and OS/2 - all of which are available for download on the site.

Vitaminic offers a great many minority and specialist genres but also includes works by Bob Marley, Miles Davis and Hank Williams.


EMusic

Emusic
EMusic is owned by Vivendi Universal and is a partner of AltaVista, AOL, Crunch Music, Listen.com, MyPlay.com, RealNetworks, Yahoo! and music publisher Peermusic.

EMusic has access to tracks from more than 800 record labels.

For a monthly fee (the minimum sign-up is for three months) users can explore and download any of EMusic's 200,000 songs - and download them as many times as they like.

The service is tailored for the RealJukebox (Windows) and the EMusic Player (Windows or UNIX), though it does use other players.

Artists available include Frank Sinatra, James, Hank Williams, Miles Davis and Bob Marley.


MP3.com

MP3.com
MP3.com is also owned by Vivendi Universal and is a partner of RollingStone.com, Emusic.com and getmusic.com.

It offers more than one million audio files from over 170,000 artists for streaming or downloading over the internet.

It also has its own music "stations" - radio web sites created by users from the MP3.com catalogues.

On a monthly or yearly subscription basis, MP3s can be burned on to CD - and yearly subscribers can store copies of their own CDs on the site.

MP3.com requires one of the following: Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, NT or XP.


WOMAD Digital Channel

Womad Digital
Part of Peter Gabriel's Realworld group, this service offers world and folk music.

Its "Knee Deep in Hits" service offers a monthly set of forty tracks for 5 - including music from Sheila Chandra, Jocelyn Pook, Papa Wemba, Afro Celt Sound System and other international artists.

The service requires Windows 98, Windows SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000 or Windows NT 4.0.


Napster

Napster
Napster, now owned by BMG, is claiming it will launch early in 2002.

The company says there will be a "small monthly fee" to join, and that all the music available through Napster "will be legally licensed for sharing in the Napster community".

The service says it has more than 5,000 indie labels providing music to date.

See also:

04 Dec 01 | New Media
MusicNet launches battle for fans
11 Dec 01 | New Media
Pressplay users can 'burn' CDs
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