Pressplay revamps service, allows burning, portability

Major label-backed online music subscription company Pressplay loosened the reins on its service Thursday by launching a new version of its software that offers unlimited streaming and downloading, as well as the ability to transfer music to portable devices.

Just eight months since its launch, Pressplay has significantly retooled its service, removing streaming and downloading restrictions in what is an apparent move to jump-start slow subscription rates.

Perhaps the most notable feature of Pressplay version 2.0 is what the company is calling its "portable download" service, which allows users to burn music to CDs and then transfer them to portable devices. This capability marks new territory for the major label-backed subscription services which up until now have been reluctant to set their music catalogs loose in digital form.

Pressplay was formed by Vivendi Universal SA and Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and the service currently boasts some 100,000 songs from a variety of major and independent labels.

Other new features of Pressplay 2.0 include a radio service that allows users to listen to preprogrammed stations with specific genres and themes. Pressplay Radio listeners can repeat, skip or download any song on demand, the company said.

Pressplay 2.0 is being offered through a variety of subscription plans. The basic Pressplay Unlimited service offers unlimited streaming and downloads for US$9.95 a month. Unlimited Plus offers 10 "portable downloads" a month in addition to the unlimited streaming and downloads for $17.95 a month. Users can also subscribe to this service on an annual basis, paying $179.40 up front for the aggregate 120 "portable downloads" available at the start of the membership.

The company is also offering "Portable Download" Packs, which give members packs of five, ten or 20 portable download tracks for $5.95, $9.95 and $18.85, respectively.

Pressplay 2.0 is currently available through the company's affiliates MP3.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. Network (MSN), Roxio Inc., Sony Corp. Musiclub and Yahoo Inc. Additionally, consumers can give the new service a spin under a free three-day trial, Pressplay said.

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