UK ISP Virgin Media has today announced a partnership with Universal Music Group which will give its customers the ability to download unlimited amounts of music for a set fee.
The music will be in DRM-free MP3 format, meaning it can be used with any digital audio player and copied to CD without restrictions. Customers will be able to subscribe to an entry-level plan with a limited number of downloads, or a more expensive unlimited plan.
Subscription packages, demanded by many music fans due to their ‘all you can eat’ nature, have been slow to take off. Long running subscription service eMusic has a limited catalogue while Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ offering has been hampered by DRM restrictions. Analysts have long expected Apple to move iTunes Music Store to a subscription model but this has yet to materialise.
It appears there is a clause in the deal with Universal that means Virgin has to “educate” its customers with an anti-piracy message, going as far as suspending accounts of those who are caught but not blocking customers completely. It seems the labels are as far away as ever in getting ISPs to become ‘Piracy Police’.
Virgin hopes to get other labels on board before launching their service. After all, Universal might be the biggest music group in the world but it’s not going to be a very appealing prospect if there are large holes in the catalogue.