In an attempt to reconnect consumers with in-store music purchasing (the CD album industry is down the tube for everyone but Kid Rock, who refuses to sell his music on iTunes), SanDisk, with the backing of the four major music labels, announced today an initiative called SlotMusic, which could change the music industry as we know it.
Their aim is to put entire albums on MicroSD cards, which Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy have agreed to begin selling later this year. Aimed at the millions of cellphones with MicroSD slots, each card will also come with an adapter to let it plug into the USB slot of computers.
This news has the potential to revitalize the music industry. We picked up on this from an article in the New York Times Blog, and they made some great points about the more appealing aspects of MicroSD cards over CDs and digital downloads.
SanDisk expects the price of each card to be about the same as a CD. Music will be in the form of MP3 files, with no digital rights management restrictions. The labels also hope to add value to the cards with liner notes, lyrics, videos and other digital goodies. Plus, the cards can be erased and reused, making it a 2-in-1 value.
All of that, and it's just easier to use for cell-phone listeners. If you want to get music onto a cellphone, sticking one of these cards in is easier than downloading and transferring songs. You can't play SlotMusic cards in your car or home stereo, but if the format takes off, it won't be too long before we see card readers on other devices.
The music labels, not SanDisk, create the albums and sell them to retailers. SanDisk simply sells the cards to the labels, just as a vendor might sell them blank CDs. (The company intends to license the technology to other makers that could sell cards to record companies.)
Some downsides? The selection will be slim to start, with each label producing a few dozen titles initially. Plus MicroSD cards are really small. We know smaller is generally better (thus the appeal of intangible digital music), but these have the potential to be lost under couches and car seats forever.
Tell us: Is this a format that has staying power? Or are you sticking to iTunes?