Australian retailer Sanity Music is pulling the plug on its LoadIt online music subscription service just a handful of months after going live.

An email distributed to customers this week explains that the retailer's download service will close for good on Jan. 1, 2009. Users' remaining balances as at Dec. 31 will be converted to Sanity, Virgin and HMV Gift Card gift cards, which will be posted to customers.

"Whilst we are disappointed that we have had to close LoadIt - Sanity's groundbreaking music service - we will continue to explore innovative new music offerings for our customers," commented CEO Ray Itaoui, who signs off on the email. "Please look out for new product offerings from Sanity in the future."

Itaoui's note also recommends customers back up their LoadIt collection by burning to CD-R.

A message on the LoadIt site curiously claims to be "under maintenance". A Sanity spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Sanity made a big sound with its download offering, which was first tipped in January 2007 and had its launch on Aug. 14, 2008. The full commercial service enabled its users to download up to 300 tracks a month for $29 Australian ($18.60), from a catalog of 1 million licensed tracks.

At the time of launch, Itaoui described the new service as "a natural extension of our music stores and makes online music even more accessible for the masses - it's a rich, vibrant and easy-to-use experience that reflects the excitement of our stores."

Tracks were available at a bitrate of 192Kbps, and could be transferred to up to three PCs and two music players.

Bloggers, however, took umbrage to the restrictive, downloadable LoadIt software, which is built into Microsoft's Windows Media Player 11 but appeared as a default on a users' WMP once activated.

Sanity Entertainment claims to be the largest independent music retailer in Australia with more than 230 stores nationwide.