Virgin to Launch Online Music Store

In conjunction with music-delivery company MusicNet, newly launched Virgin Digital (part of the Virgin Group, which includes Virgin Megastores, a record label, mobile phone service, and oh yeah, an airline) is developing an online music store that will be available by the end of August, the companies announced Sunday. Zack Zalon, president of Virgin Digital, said that Virgin Digital will ultimately work on mobile phones, handheld devices, and other consumer-electronics gear.

The online music store will include a digital jukebox that will let you burn, rip, and encode songs onto CDs; you will also be able to access Virgin's digital music club and its Radio Free Virgin Internet radio stations. "We're not releasing the (pricing) information but it'll be hyper competitive," Zalon said, but you'll be able to buy songs individually or subscribe to the service. The typical per-song price for legal music downloads is 99 cents.

Virgin Digital will be competing on an already crowded playing field, which includes Apple Computer's iTunes software and online music store, MusicMatch, Napster 2.0, and even Wal-Mart. But the company boasts the benefit of the more than 100 million people who already visit Virgin Megastores annually, giving Virgin valuable market and customer-preference information.

The Virgin Digital software product, which will be available for download through the Internet and on a CD that Virgin will make available in its record stores, will support Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA), format. WMA files work on many digital music players—except Apple's, which doesn't support WMA.

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