SlotMusic: Can microSD cards replace audio CDs?

  • Los Angeles (CA) – There is little doubt that music downloads will take over most of the audio CD sales volume sooner or later. The music industry seems to have accepted that trend and while it may give up on the audio CD, it isn’t ready to give up on physical media sales yet. Four major publishers announced a new media format that will be compatible with PCs, cellphones and other portable devices: Flash memory cards will soon be sold with preloaded, DRM free music.


    The format introduced by EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner Bros. is called “SlotMusic” and will be available initially through a range U.S. retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Sandisk is developing the hardware and software technology, which is based on the microSD format. SlotMusic cards will be packaged with a tiny USB sleeve, which will allow buyers to play the music in any portable device with a microSD slot (such as cellphones) as well as any device with a USB interface (such as PCs).

    In its very basic concept, SlotMusic cards are positioned as a CD replacement for all those portable devices that can play digital music, but are simply too small to integrate a CD player.  The four music giants consider their SlotMusic cards as “a versatile new physical music format for the 21st Century” and promise to launch the format with “MP3 music of top artists” in time for the Christmas season. The artist lineup and pricing of these cards has not been announced.

    What we know, however, is that the music will be saved in 320 kb/s quality and that the SlotMusic cards will have a capacity of 1 GB - which means that there will be plenty of room for secondary content. EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner Bros. said that consumers will also be able to save their own music on these cards to create their own small music albums. 1 GB of space is enough to store about 110 four-minute songs in 320 kb/s.    

    The four companies noted that the music stored on these cards will be DRM-free, but they did not confirm whether buyers will be able to copy the music from those cards to other storage devices. However, if the music in fact will be DRM-free copying the music to the internal flash storage of their cellphone or to the hard drive of their PC should be a non-issue.

    The marketing strategy behind SlotMusic is not entirely clear yet. Buyers of the cards are promised to be able to play the music “without passwords, downloading or digital-rights-management interfering with their personal use” simply by inserting the “SlotMusic card into their microSD-enabled mobile phone or MP3 player”. While it appears to be foremost a move to convince consumers to buy music for their cellphones - more than 1.2 billion cellphones are expected to be sold this year – it surely looks like an attempt to keep the traditional music distribution channel of physical media breathing.   

    We aren’t sure if the SlotMusic card can become a true replacement for the audio CD down the road or if this approach will die as quickly as it surfaced.

    What is your take? Would you consider buying microSD cards to build a music library? Let us know by writing a comment below.