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Music That Fits In Your Pocket

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Here in LA, we’ve seen record store closures from the behemoth Tower chain to the local gem Sea Level Records as of late – a clear sign that the record business is edging closer to extinction with each new year. We are most likely heading towards a world where music is primarily consumed digitally, with physical product existing only for the die-hards who feel that they need to own something tangible along with their music. Would a plastic card emblazoned with album artwork or a band photo do the trick? That’s what Starbucks and now Sony are betting on.

Sony announced this week that they would offer DRM-free tracks in the form of a Platinum Music Pass. Decoded from music industry speak, DRM-free means that the digital tracks can be played on any mp3 device and a Platinum Music Pass is a plastic card purchased in a retail store that has a secret code which can be redeemed for a specific digital album online. This is similar to the iTunes album cards Starbucks has been offering alongside their lattes and scones. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t understand why this is more attractive than simply downloading the album without the card? Or purchasing the CD for that matter.

The main argument for album cards is that they take up less floor space than CDs in retail outlets. This helps labels convince stores to stock their music, an increasingly difficult task. And perhaps for some people, the card is a material keepsake that a digital track can’t provide. However, isn’t this all just a stalling tactic in the transition from CD sales to a digital music market? In 5 years, I doubt that these things will still exist. While I applaud the major labels for any involvement in the digital sphere, they’ve still got a long way to go…

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Photo by mrjohnschumacher via Flickr