Vivendi spinoff takes MP3.com archive private

Reborn as piped muzak

A spinoff company from Vivendi that includes former executives of MP3.com has acquired the music archive from its parent, and will make it available to its business customers. In addition to the physical archive, the newly independent TruSonic has also acquired rights to the streaming software developed at MP3.com.

When in November, mega tech portal CNET acquired the MP3.com domain name, Vivendi had already indicated that it was no longer interested in hosting the 1.5 million song archive. Despite a spirited campaign by MP3.com founder Michael Robertson, who sold MP3.com to VU in 2001, and an offer to host the collection by Archive.org founder Brewster Kahle, Vivendi shut off public access to the music in December.

"The MP3s are on our servers," President and CEO of TruSonic, Joe Trebo, told The Register today. You'll need to be a TruSonic customer to get access, however. TruSonic competes with Muzak.com to sell piped music to hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

How did the archive end up in private hands, rather than as part of the commons? Sources familiar with the deal point to a complex arrangement made between Vivendi and Roxio for PressPlay. PressPlay is the streaming service jointly operated by Sony Music Entertainment and Vivendi subsidiary Universal Music, which began life as My.MP3.com. When Roxio finally acquired PressPlay in May 2003 (in a cash and stock deal valued at $39.5 million), it acquired not only all the hardware that ran the service, but the hardware that hosted Vivendi's eMusic and TruSonic too. Roxio now operates its online music store under the Napster brand.

Prospective purchasers of the MP3.com archive needed to invest in new infrastructure, and navigate complex asset relationships within PressPlay. It's not so surprising, then, that the MP3.com archive has resurfaced in the hands of a former insider.

Artists who created the 1.5 million song archive have already expressed some disquiet about royalties. TruSonic has a very limited pool for the 250,000 artists, based on the number of plays, but has said it may re-evaluate this. ®

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