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Walmart Killing Off MP3 Download Service

For those who previously purchased and downloaded music from Walmart's online MP3 shop, America's superstore is now sending out notices that the service will close as of August 29, 2011 after serving up digital music for eight years.

"You will still be able to enjoy the digital music you purchased and downloaded from Walmart.com," the company says in an email to customers. "Your complete purchase history and the ability to authorize/deauthorize any DRM-protected WMA files you may have purchased is currently available until August 29 at http://mp3.walmart.com and, after we close the service, will be available again beginning September 12. Any MP3 files you purchased from Walmart can be moved to multiple new computers, as usual."

Walmart launched its digital music service as an iTunes killer, initially offering 88-cent WMA files but eventually converted over to DRM-free MP3s in late 2008 to better compete with Apple's DRM-free move. Rather than offer a full-blown client, Walmart provided a simple downloader program similar to Amazon's purchase-and-download process. Yet despite Walmart's low prices, the iTunes integration into Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch may have helped thwart Walmart's plans to become the #1 digital music distributor. Amazon's own MP3 selection with free cloud storage probably also helped drive the stake deeper into Walmart's digital music heart.

Digital Music News reports that Walmart is blaming weak consumer demand and price insensitivity for the closing. The company reportedly sent along a certified letter to distributors and licensing partners explaining the closure:

"After eight years in business, the Walmart Music Downloads Store located at mp3.walmart.com will close on August 28, 2011," reads the letter. "All content in the Store will be disabled and no longer available for download from the store. The sale of physical record music products on Walmart.com as well as in Walmart US retail stores will remain unaffected. Walmart Soundcheck (soundcheck.walmart.com) will remain operational as a live streaming site without any download options."

A Walmart representative verified that older, protected files will still be supported. "We’ve made a business decision to no longer offer MP3 digital tracks as of August 29, 2011," the executive confirmed. "We'll continue to provide support to our customers who previously purchased digital music through Walmart Music Downloads so they may continue to enjoy and manage their existing WMA files."

Amazon, iTunes: nothing to see here. Resume dominating the market as usual. Move along.