List of Major Players

May 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Sarah Benzuly


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Pressplay: joint venture between Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group. Now at Version 2.5, added features include Billboard chart data, customizable radio station and "Invite-a-Friend/Member-Get-Member" program, which rewards subscribers with a free 10-pack (a $9.95 value) for referring a friend who signs up with the service.

MusicNet: content provided by RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI Group. RealNetworks' RealOne player acts as the distribution vehicle. MusicNet is also available on AOL, where AOL subscribers can listen, download and burn from more than 250,000 tracks from the Big Five and numerous indies. Three tiers of service: "Basic," which offers 20 streams and 20 downloads for $3.95 per month; "Standard" gives users unlimited streaming and downloading for $8.95 per month; and "Premium," which boasts unlimited streaming and downloading, plus the ability to burn 10 songs to CD each month for $17.95 per month.

RealNetworks: With the acquisition of for a proposed total of $36 million, the company now has access to the Rhapsody online music subscription service—which has partnered with a number of consumer electronics companies to bring the service into consumer's homes—and augment its foray into online music subscription services: RealOne and MusicNet, which launched in 2001 with backing by AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI.

Rhapsody has played the role of independent music service provider for the past five years, and now brings on licensing deals with EMI, BMG and Sony Music.

Liquid Audio: Anderson Merchandisers (music distributor for Wal-Mart) recently bought most of this digital music pioneer's assets. Plans remain up in the air on distributing music downloads through Wal-Mart's Website and other retailers.

Echo: a consortium driven by Best Buy, Hastings Entertainment, Tower Records, Trans World Entertainment, Virgin Entertainment and Wherehouse Music that seeks competitive licenses that enable retailers to deliver digital music products and services through individually branded or Echo-branded offerings. There is no for music downloads; music will be made available at the individual retailer's site, though no formal plans have been announced. Founded in 1997, began as a site where artists could share their music and gain immediate exposure to a fast-growing global audience of music fans. It is now owned by Vivendi Universal Net USA Group (the U.S. arm of Vivendi Universal's Paris-based Internet and technology unit) and appears in over 250 countries; the service is now fueled by Liquid Audio. The company provides music personalization, comprehensive genre and artist charts, the Platinum Service to showcase and promote artists, and customized B2B services such as audio hosting and music licensing.

Apple: Garnering licensing deals with the Big Five, computer giant Apple joins the music distribution gang with its iTunes Music Store digital download service, which With over 200,000 high-fidelity tracks, users can purchase single tracks for $0.99 (average of $9.99 for an entire album), burn to CD, play on their iPods (which is now at Version 4) and other "i" software and play on up to three Macs at once via OS X's Rendevous software. This last feature allows the user to stream—not download—another user's playlist (as long as he/she is using iTunes jukebox) to his/her computer. Other features include original CD artwork; the ability to browse by genre, artist or album; exclusive tracks from 20 (and growing) artists; streaming video; and links to artists' Web sites.

Gateway: In an effort to curb illegal downloads and promote its new download music service, Gateway has launched a Web site, www.ripburnrespect, that is devoted to educating music consumers about how to legally download music to their PCs—most notably, to a Gateway computer. Additionally, TV spots promoting's Rhapsody service are set to air.

FullAudio's MusicNow: Offering unlimited streaming and tethered downloads, plus à la carte permanent, burnable downloads, users can access this service for $9.95 per month or $0.99 per permanent download. FullAudio's newest release is available through Internet service providers Earthlink and Charter Communications.

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