June 15, 2009

Virgin, Universal To Offer Unlimited Music Download Service

British cable TV company Virgin Media is launching an unlimited music download service thanks to a joint venture with the world's biggest music corporation, Universal.

The music industry has been trying desperately to improve digital sales to overcome online piracy. Along with the deal, Virgin has stated that they will forcefully work to stop the MP3 tracks from ending up on file-sharing sites.

The service will cost from $16.30 to $24.50 every month, which might appeal to parents worried about children perusing these illegal downloading sites. The service lets Virgin Media broadband customers hear streaming music and download tracks and albums from Universal's catalog.

"There's nothing else like this out there," Mark Mulligan, vice president at Forrester Research, said to BBC News. "Both parties have brought everything they have to offer to the table."

The music will be MP3s, which means they can be listened to on players like the iPod and most mobile phones.

"If you have unlimited MP3s, as much as you could possibly want to get, why would anyone go anywhere else?" Mulligan asked.

However, he added, the companies were taking a pretty big risk.

"The UK digital market is littered with the corpses of failed music subscription services," Mulligan noted.

Virgin is also working to stop piracy by enlightening users and may even suspend Internet access for those who constantly break the rules.

Mulligan said the service was even more than the industry could have hoped for, with Virgin pursuing offenders, and Universal providing music without disliked anti-piracy software.

"This really is high stakes, if this can't work then what will," he said.

The international music trade body IFPI welcomed the deal.

"This is the kind of partnership between a music company and an Internet service provider that is going to shape the future for the music business internationally," chairman and chief executive John Kennedy said to Reuters.

"It also marks new ground in ISPs' willingness to take steps to protect copyrighted content on their networks, and that sets a very encouraging example to the whole industry."

BPI boss Geoff Taylor agreed, telling BBC News that: "It is very encouraging to see an ISP and a record label working together as creative partners."

"At the same time, the fact that Virgin Media will apply a graduated response system to tackle persistent illegal downloaders demonstrates that graduated response is a proportionate and workable way forward."

Virgin noted that they were also in talks with other labels and publishers to publish a complete catalog by the time the joint venture launches.

"We see this as completely ground breaking," Universal Music chairman and chief executive Lucian Grainge said to reporters.

"We've listened to our customers, our fans and our artists and we think that this is an opportunity to bring music to a wider audience."


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