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. I read MDN every day, but I’m beginning to get a wee bit tired of the editors’ blinkered attitude. It’s certainly not Virgin’s fault that their service isn’t iPod compatible.
    Personally I think if Apple licenced FairPlay it wouldn’t make any difference to how many iPods they sold. iPods are so good they sell in their own right. Think about it: how many people actually buy an iPod because it comes with iTunes? They buy them because they are sooo cool. The “whole widget” thing is found to be true, only when users get home and start using the “whole widget” not when they’re drooling over the iPods in the store. And… if songs from other retailers could be transferred to iTunes/iPod everyone would be happy. Apple keeps banging on that they don’t make any profit from ITMS, well they could make a profit licencing FairPlay, and then Apple would have a real “Plays for Sure” policy that would trump M$’s lies.

  2. I thought the iPod could read several types of music file formats. why is everything specifically not mac compatible?

    I can understand to an extent that they can’t use the same DRM as the ITMS. does anyone know why these other services are just flat out not macintosh compatible? Is that Apple’s doing or the competitors’ doing?

  3. THE most important fact for a Mac news service when announcing a new online music store is: Will it work with an iPod?

    Certainly can’t fault MDN for pointing this out.

    Another thought: Why can’t these competing music stores release AAC music files with their own DRM that will play on a Mac or an iPod?

  4. mcm-

    Because the other services use a version of Windows Media Player that doesn’t exist for the Macs. Microsoft has only included their DRM capability in the Windows versions of WMP.

  5. g$ Thank you for putting some of these other posters right. Fact is that all these other stores committed themselves to MS when they thought that that company would dominate this business. None had any interest in AAC or the mac. Microsoft itself took its own closed route years back (and put this trend into being) when it refused to accept the MPEG standard years back because this open foundation refused to be bullied into using its closed technology as its core and preferred Apples.

    No one cared or made a fuss back then or until things changed in the market place. Yet when those long developed plans of MS fail and its brown nosing country cousins lose what they thought was a sure bet win they start the belly aching and then demand Apple opens up its DRM to keep them in business.

    Well if they had wanted that in the beginning, if they had got together and developed a joint non specific DRM system independent of MS or Apple, if they had courted Apple back then, then maybe we could have more sympathy for their view but as things stand it would be (especially for Apple) difficult to trust any of them to be true ‘open source’ advocates or indeed friends of Apple. It is practically impossible at present to see them as anything else than Trojan Horses who will use and be used by their irstwhile Masters at MS to develop a way into Apple’s business and then eventually turn it into an opportunity for MS to re establish its hegemony .

    Opening up fairplay to a greater degree is something I advocate but only when it is safe and sensible to do so. It is a difficult decision for apple to make and only they (if even they) can work out when that should take place in light of the dangers outlined above.

  6. Why couldn’t Virgin create their own player software and DRM for the iPod?

    Given that the iPod is the primary “MP3 Player.” And Apple isn’t offering a subscription service. What would stop Virgin from developing iPodLinux into an alternate player for the iPod thus bypassing FairPlay and Microsoft?

    A quick look at shows me that there are music player apps for iPodLinux. Linux can be installed on an iPod, coexists with the original iPod software, operating software can be chosen on reboot, and can access iTunes libraries/playlists. Virgin or someone else could update this software to operate on the latest iPods, include its own DRM, and release it for Mac/PC to support its subscription service.

    Boot into linux and access the subscription music service, possibly John Lennon’s music libraries and non-iTMS iTunes songs. Or boot into Apple iPod OS for standard operation.

  7. The labels say that they want more money from iTMS.

    Would Virgin care to say exactly how much money the artists and labels will be paid from their service ?

    I suspect that we won’t be hearing an answer to that one, just as we don’t from the other subscription services.

  8. 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

    That’s not the point, which is that Virgin chose to enter a crowded field on the losing side. They didn’t have to get into the music download business, and presumably they knew what they were getting into.

    I’ll guarantee this: If Microsoft introduces their own line of portable players, it will require a new version of WiMP that won’t be compatible with existing services, and a new sticker that says “Plays For sure Only On Microsoft Players.”

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