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AOL MusicNow and Virgin Digital throw in the towel

With all the competition from iTunes, music subscription services either have to take the heat or get out of the kitchen. AOL and Virgin choose the latter.

Subscription music services may be slow at garnering mainstream acceptance, but I--and others--still think that they have a lot of potential. There's something to be said for paying a flat monthly fee for virtually unlimited music discovery. Besides, I don't really need to own that hot song of the moment when I'll probably be sick of it in less than a year.

That said, an iPod-dominated MP3 player market means an iTunes-dominated digital music domain, and it must be tough for competitors to nail down a decent buck in such a closed environment. How does the saying go? If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen? During all the hubbub of CES, two online services did just that. Virgin Digital and AOL MusicNow have quietly folded, transferring what must have been a rather paltry number of subscriptions to Napster. Frankly, I'm pretty pleased about this, not that I wish poor business on anyone. No, this just means that I have two fewer nearly identical music subscription services to keep track of, and that's good news to me.