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Johanne Torres[September 29, 2004]

Digital Virgin Now on Sale

BY JOHANNE TORRES


Even if authorities seem not to be moving fast enough to catch digital property bandits online, the availability of free electronic downloads seems to spread with the speed of light. It looks like this notion doesn’t seem to jolt companies away from opening digital download marts online. It remains to be seen how the post-Napster/Kazzaa crowds adopt such paid offerings.



Joining the pay-per-download mall comes Virgin Digital (news - alert), the digital entertainment platform of the Virgin Group, setting shop at VirginDigital.com. The service will feature a digital music store, music club subscription service, streaming radio, digital music and portable device management tools. Virgin Digital will allow users of the new service to access over one million tracks with licenses for playing, burning to CDs and downloading to over fifty compatible portable devices.

The company will offer two different membership plans to choose from. Users will be able to either pay 99 cents per song downloaded; or pay $7.99 per month to have unlimited access to over 100,000 CD-quality music albums of on-demand. Also integrated in the new service will be Radio Free Virgin, a desktop stream online radio service.

"Virgin stands for innovation, fun, and an absolute dedication to customer value," stated Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies. "We worked directly with passionate music fans around the world and together we’ve come up with a digital music service that truly defines the Virgin energy and spirit. It’s time for a digital music revolution!"

When browsing, users will also be able to get access to relevant music info, such as album credits and artist biographies. Virgin Digital is also throwing in a complete digital music management tool that lets users rip and encode CDs, import digital audio from a variety of sources, burn custom CDs, create playlists, transfer to over fifty portable-music devices. To also help users select the music they want to download and answer any technical questions, the company thought of including a "live help" feature within the software interface. This ‘Ask the Expert,’ feature imitates what you would get when walking into a retail store and asking a salesperson for help.

"We set huge goals with Virgin Digital – bringing the excitement and customer-focused experience of a Virgin Megastore directly to the world of digital entertainment. And we nailed it," said Zack Zalon, President of Virgin Digital. "This is the most entertaining, powerful, and intuitive way for dedicated music fans to find, listen, and manage their music collections. It’s a true 360-degree world of music."

Virgin Digital will be getting access of music licenses and a content distribution platform provided by MusicNet. The product is compatible with any portable music device running Microsoft’s ‘Plays for Sure’ software. While plans are currently in place to extend Virgin Digital outside of the United States, no dates have been announced.

Johanne Torres is the contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was the assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.

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