Sony Online Music Store Posts Weak Debut

Download service lacks key music, including Pearl Jam, Dylan, and Springsteen

June 10, 2004
Sony download service lacks key music, including Pearl Jam, Dylan, and Springsteen.
Sony download service lacks key music, including Pearl Jam, Dylan, and Springsteen.
John Shearer/WireImage

The Sony Corporation, which invented the Walkman and markets the catalogs of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam, has jumped into the ninety-nine-cent song-download market dominated by Apple's iTunes Music Store.

But there's a catch: Sony's new online store, Connect, works only with Sony players and its unique ATRAC file format. With this new format, users can only burn songs onto a MiniDisc, such as those used in the upcoming forty-five-hour-capacity Hi-MD Walkman and compatible Sony players. The process is not as easy as transferring an entire music library onto an iPod.

And though the Connect service features 500,000 downloadable songs, it doesn't offer key classics from some Sony recording giants. Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Springsteen's Born to Run are unavailable, and Connect sells only three tracks from Pearl Jam's Ten – yet iTunes sells all three full albums.

The service is relatively easy to navigate: To buy a song or album, users can click, Amazon.com-style, on ADD TO CART, or simply download directly. Plus, Sony's Connect-compatible devices are cheaper ($60 to $400, compared with $250 to $500 for iPods), and at least one album, Radiohead's Kid A ($9.99 per download), is available here but not at iTunes.

Can Connect's focus on the MiniDisc brand – which is popular in Japan but has struggled in the U.S. – effectively compete with the iPod-iTunes combination? "There are people who swear by MiniDisc," says Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "Is it the big mass-market play? I'm not convinced." But Jay Samit, Connect's general manager, says, "We're not trying to make a closed, walled garden but rather an open format that is well established and is the most popular format out there in portable devices." The device has one fan: Sheryl Crow, who recently played a set on a United Airlines flight as part of a promotional push for the service. "These gadgets are making people excited about new music," she says.

This story is from the June 10th, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

More Song Stories entries »