Virgin Media and Universal Music have unveiled plans for a digital music service designed to bring about a rapid and permanent change in the way UK consumers buy and listen to music.
The service will enable Virgin Media broadband customer to both stream and download as many music tracks and albums as they want from Universal Music's entire catalogue, in return for a monthly subscription fee. Downloaded music will be theirs to keep permanently and to store on any compatible device. An "entry level" offer will also be available for customers who download music regularly, but may not want an unlimited service.
As part of the deal, Virgin has pledged to aggressively police usage to stop the MP3 tracks turning up on file-sharing networks. Universal will inform Virgin if its tracks are being downloaded excessively by a Virgin user who will 'take various steps' to deal with the subscriber. The last resort would be a temporary suspension of a customer’s internet connection if that person consistently ignored warnings about their activity.
The service is intended to launch later this year. Virgin Media is negotiating with other UK major and independent music labels and publishers to ensure it can offer a complete, compelling catalogue by the time it launches.