Virgin Media (the thing that used to be NTL & Telewest) hope that the attraction of an all-you-can-download music service is still there, as they announce plans for a new service.
When they say 'all you can eat', though, it's not quite that: their deal is with Universal, so it's more a bottomless serving from a limited section of the mainstream music industry rather than a true smorgasbord. And since most people don't know what label artists work sits under, the potential for disappointment as you discover that, oh, Pipes Of Peace wasn't released on a Universal-leaning label, is high.
And then there's the price:
The proposed monthly pricing structure of the new Virgin Media downloads service has not been revealed. But the company is thought to be looking at charging at a level roughly the cost of purchasing "a couple of albums a month". This would put a monthly subscription at about £15.
I will allow a slight pause to allow you to wipe off whatever you may have splattered across your monitors.
Fifteen quid? A month? £180 a year? Just for Universal's music?
Given that you're competing with a wider offering that costs nothing near two hundred quid, it's hard to see how this is meant to be attractive. There had been talk about hiding all-you-can-eat deals in the cost of normal broadband access, but if one record label thinks that access to its service is worth that sort of money, it's clear that consumers would notice quite sharply any such attempt.
Maybe a fiver a month, if all the majors were on board, and you might have a consumer offering.
"Virgin Media's agreement with Universal is a world first and lays the ground for a truly unique service when it launches later this year," said Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin Group and a shareholder in Virgin Media. "It will give music fans all the MP3s they want for a small monthly fee whilst supporting the artists whose creativity is the lifeblood of music."
Branson may well think £180 a year is a "small" fee, but surely even he knows that "all" the mp3s people want may come from other labels? After all, while this deal gives access to V2, it doesn't have access to proper Virgin Records' back catalogue, which sits in the EMI vaults.
A Virgin offering which doesn't actually include Virgin product. Nice.
I wonder if anyone took Branson aside afterwards and pointed out that it's not entirely a world first, either, being as how it's just a stunted version of the one between Nokia and the majors?
Tied in with this is the pushing of a hugely watered-down 'three strikes' system:
In addition Universal Music and Virgin Media say they will work together to protect the music company's intellectual property to "drive a material reduction in the unauthorised distribution of [Universal's] repertoire across Virgin Media's network".
This will include raising awareness of online piracy, legal downloading alternatives and, as a last resort for "persistent offenders", a temporary suspension of internet access. Suspension of service could be for as little as five minutes.
"No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media," the company said.
Eh? While welcoming the reaffirmation that throwing people off the internet for having an unlicensed tune or two is just daft, what is the point of a five minute disconnection? Who is driving BPI policy this week - Supernanny Jo Frost?
"now... you're going to have to sit on the naughty step until you learn."
Five minutes? Isn't there every chance that the user might not even notice the suspension? Or - if it's five minutes of requested access - they could just start their machine up while they go and make a pot of coffee?
And how does Virgin intend to do this without monitoring or intercepting customer traffic? Will they just do it at the behest of the labels regardless of if there's any evidence or not? Are Virgin really saying they'll happily cut people off - for however long - without any idea if an offence has been committed?
And if you've paid fifteen quid for unlimited access to Universal's back catalogue, will you still get sat on the naughty step for downloading the same tracks elsewhere? It's all a bit half-arsed.