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Pressplay Signs Deal With Indie Labels

Online music service pressplay has reached deals to distribute music from several leading independent record labels, including Sub Pop and DreamWorks.

The deal Monday brings a host of well-known artists to pressplay, such as Nirvana and Frank Zappa, and expands the selections from the subscription music service to more than 250,000 songs.

Pressplay also reached a deal to distribute music for the independent labels Palm, Ubiquity, Rykodisc/Ryko Label Group, important additions to the service already heavy with a mainstay of popular music, said pressplay CEO Mike Bebel.

“We focus very much on what we perceive to be the most relevant material,” Bebel said. “However, over time we’ve learned a lot from actual users of the service.”

Jupiter Research analyst Lee Black said adding indie label talent would improve the level of pressplay’s service, but he added it would take a strong marketing push from the company to lure away users of free file-sharing networks like Kazaa, Morpheus and Gnutella.

Last year, Jupiter Research surveyed online music enthusiasts who’d recently visited music Web sites and found that less than 1 percent had chosen to pay a subscription fee for such content.

Pressplay wouldn’t divulge how many subscribers it has, but said 60 percent of the people who’ve tried the free trial service have signed up for the paid version that costs $9.95 to $17.95 a month.

Pressplay, the joint venture of Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, began in 2001 as the major labels sought a legal alternative to satisfy consumer hunger for music online.

But its illegal predecessor, Napster, drew tens of millions of users with free song-sharing. By expert accounts, pressplay’s subscriber base remains dwarfed by users of other free file-sharing services that sprang up in Napster’s wake.

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