Monday, September 22, 2008

New way to buy physical music

In the latest attempt to shore up sales of music on physical media, flash memory maker SanDisk and the four major music companies plan a new format called slotMusic.

SlotMusic is be introduced in mid-October at retail outlets including Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Each unit is to contain an album, plus extras, on a compact memory card that can be played on cellphones, PCs and some portable MP3 players. The cards are inserted into vacant slots .

People close to the record companies and retailers said they view the effort as an experiment. The initial batch of releases is to comprise 29 albums, from all four of the big recorded music companies: EMI, Warner Music, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG. The releases are mostly by current pop artists including Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Robin Thicke, New Kids on the Block, Weezer, Usher, Chris Brown, Akon and Leona Lewis. In a nod to older buyers, Elvis Presley is also represented.

The music is to be sold in the MP3 format, with no digital locks that prevent copying. An adapter is to be included allowing users to transfer their music to PCs via their USB slots. The albums are expected to cost about $15 .

CD sales have been decimated in recent years, as people have migrated to digital downloads, whether they pay for them or not. Earlier this year Apple's iTunes Store surpassed Wal-Mart to become the largest music retailer in the world. The record labels have tried various ways to prop up sales of albums, which are more profitable than the 99-cent single tracks that make up the vast majority of iTunes sales.

The music companies over the years have tried to persuade consumers to migrate beyond CDs to a range of new formats, including DVD-Audio -- with limited or no success. Daniel Schreiber, general manager of SanDisk's audio-video business unit, says slotMusic has a unique advantage, since it's compatible with a vast range of devices people already own, including hundreds of millions of phones.

"I don't have to convince you to buy anything; you already own it," Schreiber says. "I don't have to convince you to carry anything; you're already carrying it." (info from The Wall Street Journal)

No comments: