Virgin Megastores has launched an online download site for UK customers, promising to revive the music single by offering cheap, pay-as-you-go downloads.
The launch comes as music companies report dwindling record sales, as well as a 40% dip in singles sales from last year, according to the retailer, part of Virgin Entertainment Group.
Users can now download songs from www.virgin.com/download for as low as 60p, which can then be burned onto the CD.
Virgin is also giving customers the ability to listen to 30-second samples of more than 200,000 tracks, as well as access to exclusive content.
The site requires no subscription, mirroring Apple Computer's successful iTunes music store. ITunes has swept the US online music market, and reported that consumers have bought or downloaded more than 10 million songs from the service since it launched four months ago.
Virgin is touting its service as the cheapest in Europe, however, adding that with the UK's high rate of computer users it expected quick uptake.
"Music fans are driving the demand for digital music and now the technology is there, the industry is behind it and - with the introduction of our service - prices are affordable for all," Virgin chairman Richard Branson said.
The service is aiming to undercut a similar digital music service launched by Microsoft's MSN Music Club and Tiscali last month.
That service, accessible through Microsoft's Windows Media Player 9 Series software, offers songs priced at priced at 75p.
Mark Mulligan, senior analyst with Jupiter Research, said that Virgin's offering will not be too different from MSN and Tiscali's services, given that it is also powered by On Demand Distribution's music catalogue, but that the pricing and exclusivity will help stimulate the online music market.
Analysts have predicted that the online music market will really take off during the Christmas season.
Scarlett Pruitt writes for IDG News Service