New name, CEO come to Duet music service

Vivendi Universal and Sony rechristen their joint online music initiative and appoint someone to lead the secretive venture as it races a key rival to market.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
2 min read
Vivendi Universal and Sony said Monday that they have rechristened their joint online music initiative and appointed someone to lead the secretive venture as it races a key rival to market.

As previously reported, Andy Schuon will become the chief executive of Pressplay, formerly known as Duet. Schuon previously served as president of Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com, an online music service created by Universal Music Group.

Alongside Schuon, the companies appointed Michael Bebel as Pressplay's chief operating officer. Bebel formerly served as vice president of business development for Universal's eLabs, where he was responsible for the major record label's e-commerce and strategic initiatives.

"The plan is to take our service, which provides music content, technology and a programming interface, out to a vast number of affiliates and a vast number of consumers," Schuon said.

Having spent much of the last year locked in litigation with online start-ups such as Napster and MP3.com, the major labels are beginning to make serious moves to tap the Internet for music sales.

Plans began to take shape in earnest following court victories that sharply curtailed free music swapping on Napster. Once a hotbed for the trading of MP3 music files, the company has seen its popularity dwindle in recent months as it takes steps to comply with a federal court order to filter copyrighted works from its network.

After their industrywide effort to halt Napster, the record labels abandoned their united front, splitting into two major camps that each control roughly 40 percent of the music market. Pressplay is expected to compete primarily with MusicNet, a similar venture backed by AOL Time Warner, EMI Recorded Music, Bertelsmann and streaming media company RealNetworks.

Although MusicNet showcased an early version of its technology last month, Pressplay has remained tight-lipped about its plans. Monday's appointments are among the first tangible steps by Vivendi Universal and Sony to follow through on their promise to create the online music service.

Schuon said Pressplay employs 70 people in offices in Los Angeles and New York and will unveil its service by the end of summer. Otherwise he declined to discuss the technology behind the company or reveal any of its partners.