As HMV gears up for a September launch, the retail chain will be side by side with its rival Virgin. Virgin Digital has announced a 2 September UK launch, only 1 day after HMV.

HMV is planning a full digital music service (DMS), backed by MusicNet, that will be based on Windows Media formats including Janus allowing a portable subscription service. HMV has been busy courting the indie labels, a move that Apple failed to make prior to launch, even offering to shape its service to fit indie requirements, though just how flexible they could be has to be limited. HMV is also coming to market with a slight difference to other DMS as it plans to incorporate a major bricks and mortar presence with in-store experts, hardware sales and more.

Virgin Digital hasn’t set the world on fire following its 2004 US launch though it does sport an excellent self-built interface and a 1 million+ song catalogue. It will be essential that Virgin Digital matches HMV’s physical offering as well as marketing its service to within an inch of its live. In brand terms, Napster and iTunes are miles ahead. Virgin is also Windows Media based with pay as you go also on offer alongside a subscription service and Virgin Digital is planning a series of promotional in-store gigs with tracks from those being available for download.

NetImperative has details on the Virgin Digital launch and words from Steven Kincaid, marketing director for Virgin Megastores UK.

Should Yahoo! decide that September/October is also the prime time for it to launch a UK service then it will really be a bumper month for digital music fans, especially if it comes in with a price point to match the US service’s £3 a month subscription.