Virgin Media has yet to go commercial on an all-you-can-eat music service it announced way back in June 2009, but it is still forging ahead with a separate strategy to sell music via mobile. Monday will see the launch of a new free app, which the quad-play provider created with the Canadian startup PushLife, that lets people buy and synchronise music on their phones with music libraries on their PCs. The service, at launch, will only be available on Android and BlackBerry devices.
The deal represents PushLife’s first foray into the UK market: the company was founded in 2008 by Ray Reddy, an ex-RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) executive who is now the CEO of PushLife. The company sells its app direct to the market and also works with mobile operators that have moved into offering music content to subscribers. PushLife also lists Virgin Mobile (NYSE: VM) Canada as another customer.
One of the key aims of the free PushLife app will be to drive music buyers to Virgin’s pre-existing mobile music service, which was launched in August 2010.
There are other features, too: users will also be able to sync their iTunes and other music libraries from their PC to their mobile; manage playlists from their phone; and share what they’re listening to through social networks like Twitter and Facebook. (And yes, it’s curious that although the app syncs with iTunes it won’t work on an iPhone, but that device does already have an in-built sync function, so PushLife perhaps decided to look for other gaps in the market.)
According to Virgin Media’s release, the PushLife app also recommends songs based on existing tracks in the user’s library — recommendation being a big area in mobile music apps — and offers other information on the artists in the playlists.
Virgin’s wider mobile music service, which currently has around 1 million tracks in its catalogue, is based on IMImobile’s DaVinci Music product. It’s a mobile web-based service that offers mobile customers five downloads per month for £4 ($6.30), or for £3 ($4.75) to existing Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) mobile subscribers.
It’s unclear how well Virgin Media’s music service has done since launch. It does get promoted on Virgin’s home page on mobile, but when I tried to access it on an iPhone 4, I couldn’t get past the promotional banner. We’ve asked for some sales numbers, or any other metrics, for the service since launch, and will update this post with any details when we get them.
Virgin Media’s continued push into music services comes at a time when its arch rival, the News Corp.-controlled BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), has pulled back from its own music service, Sky Songs. Earlier this week, it announced that it would close after poor takeup from users.
It should be noted too though that Virgin Media has yet to announce any more on its wider strategy to launch a wider music downloads service — reportedly named MusicFish. This service had been announced as far back as June 2009 but has reportedly been stalled because record labels are unhappy with Virgin’s plans to offer music via an all-you-can-eat package for a single fee.
Perhaps mobile music will be the way ahead instead?