updated 11:30 am EDT, Mon September 24, 2007
Virgin Digital Shuts Down
Virgin today announced that its online music store Virgin Digital is to shut down over the course of the next few weeks, signifying the end to the relatively short-lived attempt to compete in the direct download arena. While the company has already phased out its US service last year in a deal that saw customers transferred to Napster, UK customers will now have until September 28th to access the site without a subscription and will see a complete shutdown by October 19th. Anyone with a subscription in effect for longer than a month will receive a refund, though song credits will expire at the store if left unused, Virgin said.
The closure of the store, which opened in September 2005, is the latest in a string of mergers and shutdowns to take place in recent weeks triggered by poor sales. MTV began the trend in late August by closing the stand-alone version of its heavily promoted URGE service in favor of a deal with RealNetworks' Rhapsody store and was quickly followed by Sony, which axed its Connect store after years of unsuccessfully promoting its proprietary ATRAC format. Virgin did not comment on its reasons for discontinuing its service but is believed to have wrestled with poor sales.
Virgin Digital's demise also represents an apparent consolidation of the market that shifts the balance of the digital music market in favor of Apple's iTunes Store and away from Microsoft's Windows Media standard, which had been used by the defunct Virgin store as well as URGE. Apple has typically enjoyed dominance of online music in North America but has frequently held only a small lead over rivals in Europe.