Pressplay, the forthcoming online music service backed by Vivendi Universal and Sony Music, will allow users to burn songs to a CD, the company said yesterday.

Subscribers will be able to burn tracks to a CD at 4x-speed with a free software plug-in. Recording at full speed, up to 24x, will require the purchase of a premium CD burning plug-in from Pressplay partner Roxio, the companies said in a joint statement. Pricing was not disclosed.

Pressplay expects to launch in the US before the end of the year, with about 100,000 music tracks online. Not all of these will be available to burn to CD, said Roxio. It added: "There will be songs that are available for streaming only and some for burning."

Burnless Online-music competitor MusicNet does not offer the option to burn CDs. It uses RealNetwork's RealOne Player software, which can be used to burn content found elsewhere, but not from MusicNet. MusicNet was launched last week by RealNetworks and is backed by AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI.

The decision to permit subscribers to burn some tracks may give Pressplay a significant advantage in the fledgling marketplace. A November report from International Data Corp predicted this market could be worth $1.6 billion by 2005.

The report said that success in this market will hinge on a wide content offering, and that major labels change their stance of preventing consumers burning copies of legally downloaded, paid for tracks.

Pressplay will be offered through affiliates including Microsoft's MSN, Yahoo and Universal's MP3.com. The service will offer content from its backers as well as from EMI and several independent record labels.