There has been music download services previously, but often these were hampered by Digital Rights Management with rules whereby you stopped your subscription and all the music you had downloaded would no longer play. Virgin Media seems to have turned the existing model upside down and has announced the launch later this year of a 'Music to Keep Forever on Any MP3 Player' service.
At this time negotiations are still ongoing with major UK and independent music labels, but Universal Music is on-board and subscribers at launch will have access to their entire catalog. The service won't be free, it will involve a monthly subscription, with various tiers, ranging from entry level with a limited number of downloads and an 'unlimited' service that will allow you to both stream and download MP3 files onto whatever devices you desire.
The new service reflects the shared commitment of Virgin Media and Universal Music to keep step with growing demand for online music in an increasingly digital world. In parallel, the two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music's intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media's network.
This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access. No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media.Extract from press release
If Virgin Media can get the other major music labels on-board and the price is right, this service could very well boost the take-up of the Virgin Media cable broadband services, not forgetting that where Virgin does not provide cable it can supply access to the service over the ADSL infrastructure. Interestingly given the proximity to the announcement of the Digital Britain report, one would assume that what Virgin Media describes in terms of policing the area of online piracy fits in with what the report states as its aims.
As and when pricing information is published we will of course let people know. In the same way as SMS bundles on mobile contracts set upper ceilings for the number of messages you can send on unlimited accounts we expect something similar with the Virgin Media music download service. Unlimited in terms of advertising is usually a misnomer and generally means a limit that is well in excess of what the average consumer of a product/service uses.