Universal to Launch “New” CD Format

When someone near the top at Universal Music asked in a meeting “Why are people buying less singles these days?” what do you suppose the answer was?

Was it “Because the growth in DVDs and video games, which we also publish, mean that consumers are buying other, more expensive products instead, and so our profits are increasing anyway”?

Was it “Because music download sites are increasing in popularity, so singles are now less relevant in the connected age. We license our music to online stores, so we’re still raking in the money – we should encourage downloading because we don’t have to manufacture, design and ship a product”?

No, sadly, it looks like the answer was neither of these two well accepted facts. Insight and informed views kept their hands down that day, and chose instead to munch quietly on the chocolate Hob Nobs, dreaming of home time.

Instead, it looks like someone with a history of dizzy spells, and perhaps head injuries, stuck their trembling hand up straight into the boardroom air and squeaked “Because the singles are too large and they don’t have enough ringtones on them.”Well, someone give that bright spark a promotion, because Universal plan to delay the inexorable slide of single sales by bringing out a “new” single format, based on one that died on its arse more than a decade ago, although with the tiniest of twists.

The Pocket CD is the same size as CD singles were for a while in 1990, 8 cm, and carries codes for ringtones. That’s it – that’s how they imagine saving the CD single.

Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music UK, predicts that his rivals are going to love the idea: “If it works, everyone else in the industry would be crazy not to join in.”

Yes, they’d be crazy alright.

The Pocket CD will be piloted in Germany and the UK, and Asda is expected to be one of the launch outlets.

Universal Music

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?