Virgin Digital to launch iPod-incompatible online music subscription service

“Virgin Group on Monday is set to launch Virgin Digital Red Pass, the latest choice in the increasingly competitive field of comprehensive subscription music services,” Reuters reports. “In addition to its library and package of editorial and other features, Red Pass undercuts other services by offering unlimited access for $7.99 a month without a contract.”

Reuters , “Users can choose from more than 2 million tracks representing at least 15,000 record labels… All downloaded tracks can be transferred to portable music players that are certified “Plays for Sure,” which includes many devices that can play songs in Microsoft’s WMA format. Apple Computer’s iPod devices are not compatible with any subscription service… One of Red Pass’ unusual features is that users can let their subscription lapse, yet all of their downloaded music and options will be restored when the account is reactivated. Additionally, all purchased tracks will be replaced free, should a user’s computer crash or be lost or stolen within a year.”

Full article here.

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Another music subscription service that, while beginning to address current services’ shortcomings, also suffers from the iPod-incompatibility kiss of death. Virgin Electronics already tried and lost with their “iPod killer” last March, demonstrating their massive lack of stick-to-itiveness and showing just how quickly they are willing to cut and run from their failures. We wouldn’t want a subscription for anything from a company known for jumping in and out of businesses looking for hits and knifing their many misses. Most likely, this is a main reason for not offering a contract; Virgin knows that they might not be around long enough to fulfill the term. This is likely an attempt to compete in the “also-ran derby” to see who can win the battle for Apple’s iTunes Music Store’s table scraps. Hardly an inspiring goal.

We would like to see Apple institute a policy of guaranteeing songs, so that in case of loss, customers can get their songs replaced within a year. Apple knows exactly what we bought and when we bought it. We’ve already paid for it, so let us download it again, if our hard drive takes a dirt nap and we’ve haven’t backed up in awhile or whatever. It’s a nice feature and iTunes Music Store should have it already.

Related articles:
Yahoo doubles its subscription music prices – October 21, 2005
Piper: Napster, Yahoo, MSN, Real fighting for small slice of Apple iTunes Music Store’s pie – September 16, 2005
Microsoft ‘Plays For Sure’ logos don’t always guarantee your music will play for sure – July 06, 2005
Study shows Apple iTunes Music Store pay-per-download model preferred over subscription service – April 11, 2005
Apple’s iPod has blood on its Click Wheel: Virgin Electronics is dead – March 08, 2005
Microsoft debuts ‘PlaysForSure’ logo to signify incompatiblity with Apple iPod, iTunes Music Store – October 15, 2004


  1. Actually MDN, a lot of Virgin products (broadband, phones etc.) have no contracts, because people don’t like to be tied in.

    Got nothing to do with cutting and running. That’s just how they work.

  2. One thing I did note, is that Virgin will replace lost tracks (basically, once you download it, you can keep downloading it) for free, which Apple will NOT.

    There is no reason that the iTunes store cannot keep a list of what you downloaded (they have to know what you bought to run their “recommendations”)and allow you to redownload stuff again.

  3. A dirt cheap (below cost) monthly subscription price did nothing for Yahoo music service. Since they’re a company that likes “making money” they recently dramatically increased their rates.

    Good luck Virgi

  4. Apple continues to ignore the appeal of network effects, pursuing a closed model. Some people want to chose a subscription service because they’d simply like to sample before they buy. Painting them all as idiots is no way to treat a market segment.

    Why is Virgin’s subscription service incompatible with iPods?

    Because Apple wants it that way. To paraphrase Rick from Casablanca, Apple, you’ll eventually regret this…”maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, and for the rest of your life.”

  5. Virgin lands in the online digital downloading) fold, once again.
    It’s good to hear and great to see that iPod users don’t have to
    concern themselves with this model.

    In this world (odd) of fight or flight, you really need a hardware
    solution that grabs your audience and holds them. Apple has done
    that with the iPod.

    Moving on, I needed to subscribe a bulletproof format that couldn’t
    be touched. Apple has that…others are worth checking out, uh-huh. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”cool cheese” style=”border:0;” />

    CT =====]———- V is for Virtuous… V is for Volatile… V is for Vomit ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”mad” style=”border:0;” />

  6. I was at a server consultant the other day. He uses Napster service. I was not watching closely but he used a program called Sidewayz to downloaded and record music into DRM free files. He handed me five dual layer data DVD disks filled with music he’s converted.

    I gave the disks back to him (and did not buy a server from him either). It blows my mind that the record company’s are going along with these subscription based systems when they’re so easy to steal from.

  7. You make it sounds like it is Virgin’s fault for not making their store compatible. As i recall Apple still won’t license Fairplay to anybody. and of course Virgin has to offer DRM with their subcription. so the only alternative is… M$.

    Granted that they are competing with iTunes. and much luck to them for trying. but stop making it sound like it is they are intentionally excluding iPod users.

  8. To be fair to all these other services, to keep calling them iPod incompatible is kind of an easy thing to draw attention to. How exactly are they supposed to be compatable? Use mp3 or aac, sure they can do that but what about the DRM the record companies will make them put on? They can’t use Fairplay because apple won’t let them.

    Admittedly the fact that the non-itms stores are almost universally crap (admittedly I haven’t used them but I’ve seen them) but being iPod incompatable is really the hardest thing for them to do anything about.

  9. Interesting reading the Sunday advertisements. All major retailers are featuring the iPod as THE gift for the holidays — often featured on the front cover of catalogs and ads. After this xmas, it will be very clear that Apple has a monopoly on players, and these services will forever be niche players.

  10. I agree that it would be good if Apple instituted a policy that you can re-download music that you have purchased should you have a crash. And I wouldn’t limit it to a year, I would make it forever. Even if they made it a bit of a pain and you had to like fill in forms and get specially authorized, the mechanism should be there.

    On the other hand, although the current situation is not ideal, it does provide a motivating factor for backing up more often, which is a good idea in any case.

    I also agree that you can’t fault Virgin for not making it iPod compatible, I am SURE they would LOVE to license Fairplay. I just don’t think it is gonna happen any time soon. From the very beginning I have thought that at some point Apple should license FairPlay to sew up the entire Market for a very long time. Though Apple as usual is playing their cards very close to their chest, I think they may be holding this as an ace in the hole to play if it ever looks like their market share is slipping.

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