Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sony Attempts to Revitalize CD Industry With New “Ringle” Format

In an attempt to revitalize the suffering physical CD format, Sony has created the “ringle”, which will consist of a CD with three music tracks and one mobile phone ringtone. According to Reuters, a ringle CD will likely include a current hit song, a remix, and an older track.

"The idea is that if consumers in the digital age can download any tracks they want individually, why not let them buy singles in the store as well?,” explained Reuters. I’ll be honest: I haven’t gone CD shopping in a long time. But back in the day when I did buy CDs, I recall a large, often quite popular, section of CD singles. Really, the only new concept here is the addition of the ringtone.

Will this entice consumers to purchase CDs? If a “ringle” CD is $6, and digital music tracks on most sites run for about $99 each, where’s the incentive? I can buy those same three tracks for $3-4 in digital format, a ringtone from my cell provider for about $1.50, and I'm off to the races.

Maybe I’m far out on this one, but I just don’t get the appeal of a “ringle” CD. The problem is that the incentive toward digital music is no longer just about price, nor being able to get the single tracks that you want. Sure, this remains an important consideration: I hated buying CDs just for one or two good songs. But the appeal for digital music has evolved into the ability to use these tunes with the latest tech toys, which have become more sophisticated over the last few years. I can now transfer thousands of digital tunes to one media server that sits in my home theatre. Or I can transfer them to my high-capacity portable media player; or even store them on a large-format memory card that’s inserted into my portable device. With Internet streaming sites, and devices like the Slim Devices Squeezebox and Sonos Digital Music System, I can listen to digital tunes throughout the home, all from my PC.

I commend Sony and the music industry on their attempt to bring new life to the CD category. But aside from the points mentioned above, the market that’s still purchasing CDs (and don’t get me wrong: there is still a market!), is the complete opposite of the market that wants personalized ringtones. For the sake of the CD, I hope I'm proven wrong.

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