Virgin shuttering download site


LONDON -- The plug is about to be pulled on Virgin Digital. The U.K.-based online music service will cease selling tracks Friday and will close to all customers Oct. 19, according to a statement posted on the site.

The closure of the Virgin-branded download site comes on the back of a management buyout of the 125-store Virgin Megastores business in the U.K. and Ireland. The MBO -- led by former Virgin Megastores managing director Simon Douglas and finance director Steve Peckham -- will rebrand Virgin's High Street and online entertainment presences in those two markets as Zavvi by November.

The existing Virgin Digital Web store advises customers who have bought downloads to back them up to CD and reimport them as MP3s. Subscribers to Virgin Digital's Club service will be cut off when their next monthly payment is due.

Richard Branson's Virgin Group timed its multimillion-pound U.K. digital music relaunch in September 2005 to steal some thunder from rival HMV, which pressed the button on an updated download service three days later. But both services struggled to make an impact in a competitive digital music market that is dominated by the iTunes Music Store.

The Virgin Digital subscription music service in the U.S. folded in January.