Digital Top Stories

Virgin talking to Spotify about plan b music service

By | Published on Friday 15 October 2010

Virgin Media is reportedly set to offer its ISP customers a new Spotify-powered music service after the company’s ambitious plans to launch the first ever all-you-can-eat DRM-free download store outside China stalled.

As previously reported, Virgin Media announced its plans to launch an all-you-can-eat subscription-based MP3 service last summer. Bundled into its ISP packages, it would mean subscribers could download as many MP3s as they wanted from a vast catalogue of music in return of a monthly fee. They could end their subscription at any time and keep anything they’d downloaded by that point.

It would be a revolutionary service, because previous all-you-can-eat platforms have used DRM so that music ceases to work either as soon as subscriptions stop or at least when the device the track was downloaded too becomes redundant. When Virgin first announced its plans to launch such a service it confirmed Universal Music was already on board but, alas, its fellow major labels, and even indie-label representing Merlin, have been less keen, worried all-you-can-eat models are open to abuse and could jeopardise the growth of other digital services. Sony Music is reportedly most hesitant.

So, over a year on, no new Virgin download store has launched. Which is why rumours that they are now working on a plan B, some sort of Spotify style service, is not a surprise. Details of what a Virgin/Spotify alliance might offer are unclear, and both companies are being vague about whether or not they are actively talking, but it is likely Virgin customers would be able to get a premium Spotify account as part of their ISP package, possibly with some extra Virgin-only functions or content.

It’s the Daily Telegraph which seems certain Virgin’s all-you-can-eat plan is on hold and a Spotify deal is being done instead.

The paper quotes a source who says: “Virgin Media has built its own service and it’s really good. But it has yet to sign up any of the other major three record labels, so it can’t launch for at least twelve to eighteen months. Warner and EMI are driving a tough deal, but Sony US management has really stuck its heels in and is not budging. The company do not like the idea of offering unlimited amounts of downloads for a monthly subscription fee”.

And another one that adds: “Virgin are very keen to get something off the ground, so while it can’t launch its own service, it has been looking to partner with a music service and is set to launch a new offering with Spotify. It’s own music service has gone on the backburner for the time being”.

While Virgin has been trying to get its download service together, their main ISP rivals Sky have launched Sky Songs, of course, an Omnifone-powered service which combines Spotify style streaming with a monthly bundle of MP3 downloads. It will be interesting to see if any Virgin/Spotify service includes the MP3 bundle element.