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SlotMusic Format Debuts At $14.99

The world’s four largest music companies will begin this week to ship almost 40 music albums in the new SlotMusic format, which consists of a $14.99-suggested 1GB MicroSD memory card containing MP3 files with no digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

The albums, which are priced similar to CDs, include new releases available day-and-date with their CD counterparts. Other albums will be catalog titles. Additional albums are planned for the Christmas selling season, the companies said.

The albums ship initially to such retailers as Walmart and Best Buy, which will also sell SanDisk’s Sansa-branded SlotMusic players. Priced at a suggested $19.99, the SlotMusic players accept MicroSD cards with capacities up to 16GB and play music in the unprotected MP3 and WMA formats. Artist-branded versions bearing the names and images of such artists as ABBA and Robin Thicke will also be available at those chains in the coming days at a suggested $34.99. The price includes one of the artist’s albums on a 1GB MicroSD card.

The SlotMusic albums will appear in Best Buy stores this week, then in Walmart stores in a week or two, said SanDisk, which developed the MicroSD format, led the development of the technology behind SlotMusic, and makes the SlotMusic cards.

The music industry is promoting the new format’s simplicity and ease of use, pointing out that consumers can acquire digital music without using a PC to download songs, rip CDs or manage music libraries. Consumers also won’t have to fret about which devices will play the songs, the industry said. Consumers have a wide choice of compatible devices, given that many portable, home and car devices play back unprotected MP3 files. Many of the compatible portable devices, including music-playing cellphones and many brands of MP3 players, also feature MicroSD slots. Apple’s iPods and iPhones, however, lack memory card slots.

Because each card is also packaged with a USB reader, the industry also expects the format to be popular for playing back music on PCs, laptops and a growing number of USB-equipped OEM and aftermarket car audio systems and home audio systems. The albums are also compatible with desktop and laptop PCs based on the Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems.

“With no need for computers or cords, the Sansa SlotMusic player gives consumers more time to play, and less time to worry about managing or downloading their music,” added Daniel Schreiber, SanDisk’s senior VP/GM.

The 1GB SlotMusic cards, sold in a jewel-box-size package, store high-quality MP3 files at data rates up to 320Kbps and have the ability to store liner notes, album art, videos and other content supplied by the music companies. Because of the card’s capacity, consumers can also add their own content to the cards.

All of the first SlotMusic albums feature liner notes, and some feature pictures. At least one album, from Robin Thicke, also incorporates videos. The artist-branded SlotMusic players also ship with liner notes and additional content.

Artists appearing on the inaugural Slot Music Cards include ABBA, Chris Brown, Coldplay, Connie Talbot, Daughtry, Don’t Quit Fitness Bundle, Elvis Presley, Five Finger Death Punch, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Buffet, Katy Perry, Keane, Kelly Clarkson, Kiss, Leona Lewis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metro Station, MIA, Nelly, New Kids On the Block, Ne-Yo, Nickelback, Pussycat Dolls, Rihanna, Rise Against, Robin Thicke, Saving Abel, Shwayze, Solange, Sugarland, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Usher, Weezer and Young Jeezy.