Virgin Retail has launched a rival to illegal music download Web sites. The scheme, from Virgin.com, aims to give a much-needed boost to the flagging UK singles market.
The service, which follows earlier launches by HMV, MSN and Apple, makes more than 200,000 tracks available for as little as 60p each.
Customers to the service order blocks of credit, worth up to£29.99, which they can then use to download chart tracks from the site.
The retailer is also working on deals with record companies to offer otherwise unreleased tracks, or chart tracks before they are available in the shops.
The download service is supported by OD2, the digital music provider launched by Peter Gabriel, and uses the Windows Meta File format. The retailer said this is the only media standard that provides the level of security required by music labels before they will release their catalogues online.
In a statement, Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson said: 'Our new service will be instrumental in putting the British single firmly on the road to recovery.
'Music fans are driving the demand for digital music, and now the technology is there and the industry is behind it. With the introduction of our service, prices are affordable for all.'
- Analysis: page 29.