My favourite band isn't with Universal – are there more partnerships in the pipeline?
Virgin Media's announcement of a tie-up with Universal of course begs the question of what the other labels will do. Would you pay for the service of just one label? According to the official press release: "Virgin Media is negotiating with other UK major and independent music labels and publishers to ensure it can offer a complete, compelling catalogue by the time it launches."
But, and its potentially a major negative to the service, talks with partners do not necessarily guarantee that partnerships will arrive, and unless Virgin Media can turn talks into tracks, this service could fall on its backside very quickly.
I heard that even accessing a pirate website would mean that my Virgin Media account is cut-off, suspended or slowed down, is this true? What are the punishments?
Virgin Media has told TechRadar that this is not the case. As the press release says: "No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media." As far as we can gather; what this means in practicality is that Universal and/or the other potential partners will monitor P2P traffic in exactly the same way as the BPI does now – alert Virgin Media if one of its files is being shared by a Virgin Media customer and VM will then respond.
Our understanding is that the 'punishment' will start small (probably a warning letter) and then be cranked up a notch for each repeat offence until, as Virgin says: "[the repercussions] include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access."
So is this better than Spotify?
It's different. Of course Spotify currently boasts a hell of a lot more music, but Spotify is, in the main, a streaming service which means that you can't freely download music and share it to a number of devices. Spotify's ad-funded service is, of course, free and Virgin Media's service is not.
What's the bit-rate?
We're told that the rate will be 'good quality' but details have not been released. TechRadar's best guess is a service of 256kbps and up.
Why do this now?
We're in a time of change in the music industry, with pirate music still flourishing and the UK government looking to address the problem. The onus appears to be on ISPs to provide legal, affordable alternatives to lure people back away from the pirate sites, and an all-you-can-eat offering is an attractive one.
Who can get it?
The service will be available to Virgin Media broadband subscribers only - with no details forthcoming on how long a contract you will have to sign up for in terms of the music. This obviously makes the deal very ISP specific, with subscribers to the likes of Sky, Tiscali et al all left with the decision to change their ISP just to get the music package.