Sony BMG Can’t Let Go Of Putting Out Physical Product

Dec 21st, 2007 // 8 Comments

Sony BMG is leaving DRM behind and entering the MP3 market … with albums that you can buy in stores. But in a move designed to counteract the ever-shrinking amount of floor space devoted to music, those albums won’t be on CD or DVD-Audio or DualDisc some other sort of disc. No, they’ll be on cards–you know, the sort of dinky plastic gift cards that you now see offering things like iTunes credits and American Express-mediated money at the checkout counters of your big-box retailers in these high fructose corn syrup-averse times! And they’ll also be more expensive than $9.99, natch. What, you thought you were going to get off easy on this?

Apparently modeled on the iTunes digital download album cards, Sony BMG will place 40-50 album cards in about five large retailers. The cards will be a select mix of hit and catalog titles from artists such as Bob Dylan, Pink and Bruce Springsteen, as well as a few compilation releases.

The cards, which sources say are priced at $12.99, will come with a code that can be redeemed at a Sony BMG download store, which is expected to be called musicpass.com. Currently, no such site is live on the web.

The program is scheduled to launch sometime next month–just in time for returns season! or, uh, Super Bowl Sunday?–and so far, it’s the only venture into MP3s that Sony has been linked to. You’d think that for a company with a president who can’t stop talking about “going green” they’d have worked with an all-digital company like Amazon or iTunes before going back into the physical-product world, but that just sounds too logical, I guess.

Sony BMG To Embrace MP3s [Billboard]

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  1. ragandboneshop

    So you drive to a store, buy a *thing* that has no lyrics or album art to speak of, and no music either, and it gives you the right to go back to your computer at home and download the songs, *which you could have done for less money before you even left the house*.

    The mind boggles.

  2. Al Shipley

    Whether this is a decent idea or a terrible one really depends on how much music will be contained in this “select mix of hit and catalog titles.” 80 minutes? 4 songs? A dozen full albums? It really isn’t clear what they’re going for based on that tidbit.

  3. Dead Air ummm Dead Air

    This makes about as much sense as the Digital Compact Cassette and the Ringle.

  4. AL

    @GovernmentNames: I took the “select mix of hit and catalog titles” to be referring to albums. As in, each card will be good for 1 album, and the albums offered will be selected from this mix of “hit and catalog titles”.

  5. Rob Murphy

    This is not as bad an idea as we’re thinking, I suspect. One of the things we’re not seeing clearly is that these are not cards consumers will buy for themselves — these are “gift cards” that consumers will buy for other people.

    Look at it this way — Sony gets to do all of these things:

    1) expand distribution of musical product using a format that is already ubiquitous and accepted by consumers ["gift card"];

    2) get placement in the “impulse purchase” location of the retail world [at the register], where physical CD’s are not accepted;

    3) increase density in the end-of-aisle highlight bin in the shrinking real-estate of the “music department”;

    4) gather data on whether consumers will mass-trade label-offered unprotected digital tracks, any more than they already trade ripped tracks [you do know that the redeem code, or some other unique identifier, will be part of the ID3 tag, right???];

    5) gain leverage against Apple and the iTMS by taking market share ["plays on all music players!"]; and

    6) make more $$$ than they get from the iTMS for the tracks.

    Sony has virtually nothing to lose by doing this, and if it’s not a “hit”, so what???

    The dumbest part of this story is that Sony will miss the gift-purchasing season. The best part of this story is that Sony is entering the DRM-free digital track world.

    Did I miss anything?

  6. SuperUnison

    I think that they should put them on a USB dongle. That way, they can justify $20 instead of $13 by giving people a tchotchke to take away. Then, I think that they should contractually define said dongle as a promotional expense, thus negating any need to pay royalties to the artist.

  7. Rob Murphy

    @DHMBIB: Yes, I did miss at least three additional important points:

    7) Because these are “impulse buy gift cards”, Sony can strike deals to put these cards in lots of non-”music” outlets — drugstores, coffeehouses [though probably not Starbucks, and you know why], clothing retailers, etc.

    8) If, as the article tells us, the cards offer single-album downloads, Sony can continue to market the concept of “the entire album” against the iTMS’ more nihilistic “only the songs you like” pitch.

    9) Also, Sony can leverage the artists’ brand to pitch the cards against Apple’s faceless cards. You’re likely to see the artists’ branding tie in to the specific locational deals as well — Feist cards available at The Gap, for example [yes, Feist is UMG, but you get the idea].

    Anything else???

  8. Jasonbob7

    I think the idea is pretty good. While I agree that it’s way more convenient to find and download songs on your computer, there’s a lot to be said for the “impulse buy” aspect of music purchasing. That’s why CDs do well in non-record stores (Best Buy, Hot Topic, Whole Foods, etc) where the distributor can target an audience more closely. These cards fill the same purpose, only they’re cheaper to display (you could fit at least 20 cards in the space taken up by one Jewel Case) and more convenient to carry around.

    I still think the price point is ridiculous, though. Who’s gonna pay $13 for some downloads???

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