HMV and Virgin are to go head to head with both high street retailers launching new download music services in the next two weeks.

Virgin's online store will go live on Friday 2 September, and HMV's on Monday 9 September.

Both companies plan to offer customers with a choice of paid-for downloads or a monthly subscription service.

HMV is aiming to distinguish itself from its competitiors by offering a flexible pricing structure. Customers will pay a premium price for a track from a well-known artist, but releases by newer bands will be cheaper, something which the record companies are trying to get Apple and its iTunes store to agree to.

Where the services will differ is support in the high street. Virgin is opting for a low key insertion in store where as HMV is investing £10m in creating HMV Digital sections across its 200 stores in the UK.

Virgin is hoping to break the same-old-same-old mould by offering its customers an ‘ask the expert' service that will allow you to ask any music question and have it answered by one of Virgin's music experts back at head office.