SanDisk Music On The Cards

There has been much speculation about how the music industry can effectively monetise its products in the digital age. Many suggestions centre on licensing deals and royalties, and the decline in overall CD sales has led to suggestions that music will not be a viable physical product of any kind in the future. The folks over at SanDisk, however, have a different idea…

Cheaper Than Blank Disks

SanDisk have formed a partnership with record companies to release music in MicroSD format – the thumbnail sized flash cards compatible with many modern mobile phones. This new release format will be called SlotMusic.

The idea is that SlotMusic disks will cost about the same price as a CD – which, in the US, is apparently between $7 and $10 (according to the NYTimes). Considering the SlotMusic disk is 1GB in size, and Wal-Mart currently sells blank 1GB MicroSD disks for $15.98, then this is a very competitive pricing level indeed.

Unwrap And Listen

The SlotMusic album is presented as DRM-free mp3 files, encoded at 320kbps. The fact that the files are not protected is a major plus, although considering that there is 1GB to play with, some will feel that uncompressed CD quality files should be on there.

The high-bitrate mp3s may well be a compromise between DRM-laden files (which nobody wants) and uncompressed audio (which some people want). However, the fact that mobile phones are a prime target device means that mp3 is the most sensible format here – consumers can simply buy the album, slot the card into their phone and listen, with no need for file conversion or downloading.

The Complete Music Package?

In addition to the music, the labels plan to enhance the value of their product with liner notes, digital artwork, lyrics, videos and various other bonus materials. This is in a simlar vein to the FAT decks proposal by Bruce Warila, which expands the experience of music beyond the music itself into a much more holistic and interactive experience.

For users who don’t have a MicroSD phone, the album also comes with a USB adapter so that you can transfer all the contents to your computer. If the prices of the albums are as cheap as downloading from a service such as iTunes, then this model could actually gain some market share, particularly for mobile users in areas where data packages are expensive and slow.

These factors, coupled with high-quality bonus material and the absence of DRM, might make this a niche contender. There are many people condemning SlotMusic as a daft move (and it may indeed fail miserably), but I’m not convinced by the argument that people don’t want to buy music in a physical format anymore. SlotMusic barely qualifies as a physical format, but the resurgence of vinyl sales indicates that some people still like to ‘get their hands on’ new music.

I’m still buying CDs as my format of choice, but if I needed a budget MicroSD card then a SlotMusic album would look very attractive indeed…


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