Pressplay, the joint venture between Vivendi Universal and Sony Music , will launch its online music-subscription service in the US today.

The service will be limited to a few thousand subscribers initially. Access to music will be supplied by Pressplay partners, Roxio, Yahoo and MSN Music. The service will be expanded to a wider subscriber base and made available through other providers, including MP3.com, after the New Year.

Pressplay competes with the already operational MusicNet service, and the forthcoming implementation of Napster's peer-to-peer file-sharing service. Pressplay will cost between $9.95 (download 30 tracks, stream 300 songs per month) to $24.95 (100 downloads, 1,000 streams and the right to burn 20 tracks onto CD).

MusicNet costs $19.95 per month. This offers 125 music downloads and 125 music streams each month. Additional fees are also payable for extra services.

MusicNet offers a catalogue of over 75,000 songs and Pressplay will launch its service with a comparable number, according to Pressplay spokesman, Dana Harris.

Pressplay has partnered with Roxio to offer users the ability to burn tracks to a CD at 4X speed with a free software plug-in, Harris said.

Industry watchers have commented that this move is ironic, in that its parent companies - Vivendi Universal and Sony Music Entertainment - have begun to incorporate technology into retail music CDs that keeps consumers from playing legally purchased CDs on a computer.