SanDisk To Launch New Music Card Format

SanDisk is developing an advertising and marketing campaign to sell consumers on buying tunes on microSD memory card from some of the top music labels in the industry.

EMI Music, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group announced Monday they will pre-load music from top artists on formatted microSD memory cards dubbed "slotMusic." Consumers can listen to the digital rights management (DRM)-free music on cell phones, MP3 devices and PCs.

EMI Music spokeswoman Jeanne Meyer says consumers can look for Katy Perry's "One of the Boys" and Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" on slotMusic cards this fall.

While details on SanDisk's advertising campaign remain sketchy until tunes start rolling out, the message will complement the slotMusic launch and inform consumers of the new way to purchase and consume music, says SanDisk spokeswoman Carm Lyman. "The consumer campaign will begin when products hit the shelf," she says.

SanDisk and participating music labels did launch a Web site comparing the new format to CDs and vinyl and promoting the amount of content that fits on one small card. It also emphasizes that consumers can play the DRM-free music on a variety of devices, playing back tracks at up to 320 kilobytes per second to offer high-quality sound.



SanDisk has been marketing the media involved. It ran the campaign, "Wake Up Your Phone," to educate consumers about the microSD slot in its Sansa music players during the summer-long "Rock the Bells" hip hop tour. The company deployed teams of slot-spotters on the ground to talk with consumers about their phones and personal media players, and the options for consuming content through the microSD slot on their devices.

Marketing and branding guru Al Reis says it's not an easy sell because people don't like to switch, especially if it works. "You may think you have a better coffee than Starbucks, but you need to give consumers a good reason to switch," he says.

Reis says it would be easier if SanDisk and the music labels were trying to solve a problem--but the only problem that exists is dethroning Apple, which sells 80% of all digital music through iTunes, says Forrester Research principal analyst James McQuivey.

MP3 player makers like SanDisk have suffered through DRM-locked music, making it difficult to sell their devices. The microSD card is not the future of music distribution, McQuivey says, but it will remind consumers they don't need an iPod to own digital music. "It may help slow the bleeding at retail, and it certainly cuts distribution costs," he says. "It's a good defensive strategy, but it is going to be hard for digitally minded consumers to think of this as the next logical step. It feels more like a step back."

Consumers will find the slotMusic cards at brick-and-mortar and online Best Buy and Walmart stores in the United States, followed by Europe, in time for the holidays. SanDisk and the music companies have plans to announce a complete list of slotMusic albums, availability and pricing.

Although tight-lipped on advertising and marketing plans, Walmart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien says the big-box retailer plans to introduce the product in about half of its stores, which is typical for a product launch. "Consumers enjoy the fact that today's technology has allowed them to further embrace and enjoy their favorite music in more convenient and exciting ways than ever before, so we will monitor this launch with keen interest," she says.

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