Record Industry Pegs Memory Cards As Next Big Thing

Dennis Faas's picture

SanDisk has teamed up with the four major record labels to offer legal music sales in a new format: memory cards. The scheme, dubbed SlotMusic, uses the MicroSD format, meaning many buyers will be able to listen to the music directly through their cell phones.

There'll also be a USB adaptor for plugging the card into a computer.

The main selling point of the system is that the music files will have no digital rights management (the copy protection system which heavily restricts usage of many downloadable albums) and that it will be encoded at 320 kilobytes per second. That's a better quality than most legal downloads, though it may be tough to notice when played through a cell phone. (Source:

SanDisk hasn't said anything about pricing other than it won't cost more than a CD. The New York Times quotes one record label executive as saying a 1GB card with one album will cost around $7-10, which is actually below the retail cost of a blank card of the same size.

It's pretty clear why SanDisk is so keen on the scheme: they have no involvement in the music side of the deal and are simply supplying the memory cards. While they'll likely be offering a bulk discount, it's still a great source of business. Initially, SlotMusic will be exclusive to SanDisk, though there's talk it may later license the technology to other manufacturers. (Source:

The most obvious problem with the system is that it seems to be a compromise rather than a balance between existing ways of buying music. The feel-good factor of owning something tangible is likely to be heavily diminished with a tiny memory card. And while slotting a card into a phone is slightly more convenient, it's not as if copying downloaded songs from a PC to a phone is particularly troublesome.

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