Online Music Service Bought by Napster Parent Roxio

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NEW YORK ( -- The acquisition of Pressplay by Roxio appears to have sidelined the online music service's agency review. Pressplay, a joint venture of Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, was on the cusp of naming its first agency.

Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, was believed to be the front-runner for the estimated $25 million assignment. Dentsu's Colby & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif.; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday, San Francisco; and Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, San Francisco and Los Angeles, were also finalists. The agencies did not return calls.

Merge with Napster
Roxio will merge Pressplay into its

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Review to Be Conducted In-house
Napster division and plans to relaunch Napster as a for-pay music download service by March 2004. Officials from both companies declined to comment on the status of agencies in the Pressplay review process or on plans for an agency search for the Napster relaunch.

Modernista!, Boston, is Roxio's agency of record; the agency referred calls to the client.

The relaunch of Napster could present some daunting brand challenges for Roxio: Napster, the brand synonymous with "free" music downloads, will now go the for-pay, legit route. The online music service was shut down two years ago amid protracted legal wrangling. Could the attempt to resurrect Napster as a for-pay service bomb?

Huge potential
"The people who made [Napster] successful before are not the people you're going to build the business on, you're moving beyond early adopters," said Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor & Associates, New York, brand consulting agency that is a unit of WPP Group. "I think [the relaunch of Napster] has a huge potential because it is a hot, edgy irreverent brand and young people connected with it on an emotional level," he said.

For-pay online music download services need to be easy to use, offer decent price points and the ability to download tracks directly onto a digital device, said Phil Leigh, a media analyst with Raymond James who praises Apple's iTunes Music Store for its ease of use and its ability to offer unlimited CD burns once a track has been downloaded.

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