March 7th, 2008
04:22 PM ET
In mid-January, Sony BMG released Platinum MusicPass, credit card-like digital albums that allow music buyers to purchase music in non-disc form, log on to a Web site and download MP3 files to their digital players. The label, which is pitching the cards as a gift or collectible, is selling the MusicPass albums at several retailers, including Best Buy and Target, as well as non-traditional spots such as the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain.
MusicPass is available at several retailers.
CNN Producer Matt West, always interested in the latest technological offshoots (and the producer of the network's Pop Digital segments), sampled the new product. Here's his review:
Because nobody at Sony has yet received the memo that music retail was killed by the music download, apparently the company now wants to me to go to a retail store to pick up something that I could just as easily do without ever leaving my home.
This bothers me on so many levels. First, I should mention that I live in Los Angeles, where driving is considered a blood sport. Now, thanks to MusicPass, I can not only take my life in my own hands in order to get music on my computer - I’m also contributing unnecessary carbon emissions and smog to the atmosphere.
Next, would somebody please tell me what I am supposed to do with this shiny plastic card after I log on to Sony’s MusicPass Web site and download my tracks? Pass it on to a friend and let them download some music? Sorry, only one download to a customer. At least when I bought CDs, I could pass them along to my friends to listen to or copy. (No doubt, the one person/one use situation is part of Sony’s plan.) I wonder if this card is recyclable.
It’s also a clunky system. When you visit the MusicPass site, you are prompted to enter some numbers found on the back of the card. You are then asked if you want to install Sony’s download-manager software. Now, I’m sure this is infinitely more convenient than the alternative, which involves clicking and saving each individual file to your hard-drive and then copying that into your iTunes music library before finally putting those files on your iPod. (Which by the way, before MusicPass, I could do in two clicks.) But given Sony's DRM issues in the past, I’m not looking forward to installing anything from Sony Music in my system. (Editor's note: In 2005, Sony put out CDs that downloaded software on users' computers and included a rootkit. Sony BMG says MusicPass does not contain DRM.)
Then there’s the issue of theft. As someone who used to work in music retail, I can’t even tell you how easy this card would be to steal. If all that’s required to download your music is a pair of numbers from the card – as opposed to a scan or swipe that “activates” the card - then it’s almost as if Sony is asking for kids to pop on down to the local Best Buy and steal their music.
And one final note: cost.
At $12.99 a pop for most releases, this is no bargain. Even with the bonus tracks contained on several albums, I can’t imagine why anyone would be willing to spend that kind of money. iTunes is cheaper – most albums range from $9.99-11.99. And what if I just want the single? Many online outlets allow you to download individual songs for 99 cents.
MusicPass’ press release states that it’s “a great way to bring digital music to the physical retail space.” The catch is the wonder of digital music eliminates the need for the physical retail space. And besides iTunes, there are plenty of places to find music downloads, such as Amazon and eMusic (not to mention, uh, those file-sharing sites).
Thanks for trying, Sony. I’ll just stack the rest of these cards over here next to this pile of MiniDiscs and Betamax tapes.
- CNN Entertainment Producer Matt West
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