Virgin Media's newly announced all-you-can eat DRM-free music deal with Universal split the office down the middle, with arguments raging over whether the service was a glimpse of the future or doomed to failure.
So TechRadar co-editors Patrick Goss and Paul Douglas decided to take their arguments public by discussing whether the Virgin Universal tie-up is going to revolutionise music consumption in the UK or likely to sink without a trace.
Paul Douglas: Six reasons why Virgin's service won't take off
You'll have to change service provider
In order to qualify for Virgin's music service you'll have to sign up with Virgin Media broadband. Is the service compelling enough to make that switch worthwhile? Additionally, moving ISP means you might lose out on other TV or phone deals if you have a bundle deal from a company such as Sky or BT.
Choice is limited
The Virgin Media music catalogue is limited to that of a single record label – Universal. That's like going to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and being presented with nothing but a mountain of prawn crackers. It's critical that Virgin now establishes relationships with the other major labels to broaden its catalogue.
We're in a recession
Let's say your current broadband package is setting you back £20 a month. Are you really happy to see that increase to £35 a month just so you can download the new Lady Gaga album?
There are already other all-you-can-eat services
Napster has been offering an unlimited download service for years. Called Napster To Go, the service allows you to download an unlimited number of tracks for £14.95 a month. The Virgin service is rumoured to cost the same as 'a couple of albums' – so that's £15-ish, too. Not so new and unique really, is it? The difference is that Napster's DRM only allows you to copy your music to a compatible device - of which the iPod isn't one - while Virgin's music comes without the shackles of DRM, and your music won't become unplayable if you leave Virgin – but is that different enough?
Subscription services aren't in great health
If the subscription model was so popular, Napster would be posing a threat to the iTunes Store, or the iTunes Store itself would have introduced a subscription service. Conversely, music subscription services are in what analyst Mark Mulligan calls a "dire state" which he cites as one reason why Napster is trying to shift its focus onto individual downloads. Last year, Forrester analyst James McQuivey called music subscription services "modern-day record clubs" – he's bang on.
And then there's Spotify…
While Virgin claims its new service is a 'guilt free' way for people to enjoy music (presumably a dig at the pirates who are, of course, utterly consumed by guilt) there's already a guilt-free way to enjoy music and it doesn't have to cost you a penny. Spotify has brought us a world of music for nothing – why on earth would we pay £15 a month to get a fraction of that world from another service?