Company typeJoint venture
IndustryOnline music
FoundedMay 2001 (2001-05)
DefunctMay 19, 2003 (2003-05-19)
OwnerUniversal Music, Sony Music

PressPlay (stylised pressplay[1]) was the name of an online music store that operated from December 2001[2] until March 2003. It was created as a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment in response to the popularity of Napster.[3]

Universal and Sony created PressPlay rather than joining RealNetworks' online service MusicNet, which had signed BMG, EMI and AOL Time Warner.[4] It was originally announced under the name Duet in May 2001[5] and launched as PressPlay in December 2001.

Apart from Universal and Sony, the service carried some music from BMG, EMI and Warner, as well as various independent labels.[citation needed] It was branded for multiple services, most notably[6]

The service allowed users 500 low-quality[7] audio streams in DRMed Windows Media Audio,[2] 50 song downloads and 10 songs burnt to CD, for $15 a month. It could also build and store users' playlists. Not every song could be downloaded, and users could not burn more than two tracks from the same artist to CD.[7] Downloads expired after 30 days.[5] Songs could not be transferred to a portable player.[6]

Artists were paid around $0.0023 (0.23 of a cent) per song. Many artists, outraged at this rate and stating their songs were being used without proper permission, sought to have their music removed from the service unless they were paid a licensing fee rather than a CD-style royalty.[3]

Even before it was launched, the restrictions meant the service was not attractive to consumers.[2] PressPlay and rival MusicNet were given the shared 9th place in PC World's 2006 list of the "25 Worst Tech Products of All Time", which stated that "the services' stunningly brain-dead features showed that the record companies still didn't get it".[7]

Universal and Sony had also licensed at least a portion of their catalog to other, more successful online music stores such as Streamwaves' Christian music service HigherWaves, FullAudio and Streamwaves' full product.[8]

Roxio acquired the service on May 19, 2003, and used it as a base to launch their paid music service under the brand name Napster, and in 2004, Sony launched its Sony Connect service.

The disastrous history of Pressplay was later detailed in How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt, from the viewpoint of Universal Music CEO Doug Morris.[9]


  1. ^ "Try pressplay digital music service's free trial and start to stream, download and burn today!". 2002-09-05. Archived from the original on 5 September 2002.
  2. ^ a b c Harris, Ron (5 December 2001). "Mobility fears over online music sales". The Age. Archived from the original on 14 June 2002.
  3. ^ a b Strauss, Neil (18 February 2002). "Record Labels' Answer to Napster Still Has Artists Feeling Bypassed". New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  4. ^ Menta, Richard (17 September 2001). "PressPlay and MusicNet to Launch". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  5. ^ a b Menta, Richard (17 May 2001). "MusicNet and Duet: downloads expire after 30 days". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  6. ^ a b Harmon, Amy (2001-05-17). "Congress to Preview Digital Music Service". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  7. ^ a b c Tynan, Dan (2006-03-26). "The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time - Numbers 6 to 10". PC World Magazine. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  8. ^ Gwendolyn, Mariano (2003-06-05). "Universal offers songs to Streamwaves". ZDNet News. Archived from the original on 2012-10-09.
  9. ^ Witt, Stephen (2015). "Chapter 13". How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy. Viking (published 16 June 2015). ISBN 9780698152526.