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SanDisk, Music Publishers Push DRM-free SlotMusic Format 368

Posted by timothy
from the doomed-to-fail dept.
Strudelkugel writes "The LA Times and others are reporting the music industry is working with SanDisk to try unrestricted music files on microSD memory cards to improve sales of physical media: 'In addition to music, the slotMusic cards will come pre-loaded with other things, such as liner notes, album-cover artwork and sometimes video.' The important part: 'The music on slotMusic comes without copyright protection, so it can be used on almost all computers, mobile phones and music players — but it won't play on an iPod, which doesn't have a micro-SD memory slot. It has one gigabyte of memory, and the music tracks are played back at high quality.' Could it be the labels have finally recognized that providing features and convenience to customers is preferable to suing them?" Most computers also don't have microSD slots; according to EMI's press release, there will be a "tiny USB sleeve" packaged with each card, and the "high quality" format means up to 320kbps MP3. From the given description, it seems like it would be no harder to transfer the tracks to an iPod (via a computer) than to most other players.
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SanDisk, Music Publishers Push DRM-free SlotMusic Format

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  • by ottawanker (597020) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:35AM (#25100735) Homepage

    I don't want a memory stick containing lossy 320kbit songs, I can get that easily enough off the CD (they are still giving you a real CD, right?).

    Why not include a 24-bit 192 or 96 khz lossless format, and maybe something in 5.1 instead? DVD-Audio and SACD didn't take off because no one adopted the players, but it might take off if you made it easily playable. I might even pay a slight premium.

    • by SwedishPenguin (1035756) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:46AM (#25100793)

      It's probably to minimize the space required. They don't want half the price of the card be the cost of the card itself after all. Also a 320kbps mp3 can be played by pretty much any mp3 player out there, unlike most lossless compression formats.
      Besides, most people (including me) can't hear the difference between 320 kbps lossy and lossless.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by seneces (839286)
        But pretty much anyone with decent equipment *can* hear the difference between 24bit and 16bit, or 48khz and 96khz. That is a pretty well established fact, and not nearly as controversial as mp3 encoding quality. Audio CDs are generally encoded as 48khz, 16bit, 1411kbps PCM audio - which the majority of modern soundcards (including onboard cards) can outdo in recordings (though obviously they lack in other areas). For comparison, get one of the few albums available in DVD Audio and compare them to the CD -
        • by YourExperiment (1081089) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:19AM (#25100963)

          Audio CDs are generally encoded as 48khz, 16bit, 1411kbps PCM audio

          Minor correction, audio CDs are encoded with a sample rate of 44.1khz, not 48khz.

          Around the time of the initial development of CDs, audio was often stored using video recorders, since hard drives were an impractical choice back then. 44,100 samples per second suited both the NTSC and PAL formats, so this format was common at the time, and that's why this non-round number was originally chosen for the CD format too.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by BrentH (1154987)
          If you're going to throw specs around, please make sure you've got the right ones: CD's are ALWAYS (not generally) 44.1KHz 16bit PCM audio. If those cards are a GB large, then fitting a lossless copy of the CD with FLAC on there shouldn't be too difficult (this shrink the CD down from ~650MB to ~300-400MB, worst case scenario ~500MB). And those of you requesting 192KHz 24bit resolution, please do the calculation and find out you'll need a lot more space that way and please do the ABX and find out that, ap
        • by Weedlekin (836313) on Monday September 22, 2008 @08:31AM (#25102323)

          "But pretty much anyone with decent equipment *can* hear the difference between 24bit and 16bit, or 48khz and 96khz."

          Lots of people who pay large sums for audio equipment _claim_ they can hear such differences despite the fact that the original source signals from the best microphones in the world don't produce any useful information above 22KHz and have signal / noise ratios of 90db or less, so there won't be any extra musical information that requires the higher frequency response and dynamic range provided by more bits and higher sampling frequencies.

          Studios use high sampling rates and word sizes (192 KHz 32-bit) because multiple tracks can act as input to other tracks, which means that noise accumulates, and positional differences of high frequency bits in lower sampling rates can combine to produce artefacts (both of these can and do also occur when mixing multiple tracks down). Neither of these is a factor in domestic listening however, because _any_ system below the native studio resolution of 192 KHz 32-bit will end up being dithered down using the same algorithms (often on the same hardware).

          "That is a pretty well established fact"

          Established by whom? Double-blind listening tests indicate that there's no objective difference between them on any level of equipment when they're only being used to play back pre-recorded sources, irrespective of the musical genre being used to evaluate them. There's plenty of psycho-acoustical information to indicate that rise-times in waveforms above the upper threshold of human hearing can have a notable effect on the way it's perceived, but the inability of microphones used in music recording applications to transduce those frequencies into useful signals means that it's of academic rather than practical interest (some microphones such as the ones used in bat detectors can respond to extremely high frequencies, but they have other characteristics that make them useless for recording music signals).

          "Audio CDs are generally encoded as 48khz, 16bit, 1411kbps PCM audio"

          The audio on digital video is recorded at 48KHz. CDs are 44.1 KHz.

          "For comparison, get one of the few albums available in DVD Audio and compare them to the CD - especially at high volumes. "

          You'll need one of the even fewer DVD Audio albums that isn't up-sampled and re-mixed from a 44.1 KHz 16 bit master, and therefore actually has some chance of containing real extra musical information that isn't on the CD version to make such a comparison valid, otherwise any perceivable differences will be nothing more than artefacts of the up-sampling and re-mastering process.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by MoxFulder (159829)

            Mod parent up. Thanks for the voice of reason in here.

            You'll need one of the even fewer DVD Audio albums that isn't up-sampled and re-mixed from a 44.1 KHz 16 bit master, and therefore actually has some chance of containing real extra musical information that isn't on the CD version to make such a comparison valid, otherwise any perceivable differences will be nothing more than artefacts of the up-sampling and re-mastering process.

            Just for those who don't know: what the parent is referring to is the ongoing Loudness War [wikipedia.org], in which nearly all popular music is produced at higher and higher loudness levels, severely reducing the dynamic range to well below what the CD format is capable of. (Louder music sounds better "at first glance", so there's a lot of commercial pressure to do this.)

            Some DVD-A and SACD albums are remastered without this execrable dynamic range compression... and

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Weedlekin (836313)

              "Some DVD-A and SACD albums are remastered without this execrable dynamic range compression... and sound better as a result."

              It's more common to eschew the compression on DVD-A due to the fact that they often include a Dolby Digital track set for playing on standard DVD players that don't have a specific DVD-A capability. Dolby Digital has a calibrated average reference level that's well below those that have become common in the Loudness War, so there's much more likelihood that the rest of the content wil

      • by dabadab (126782)

        They don't want half the price of the card be the cost of the card itself

        Well, actually they want all of the price to be the price of the card itself, since they are selling memory cards, not music. The music part is just some "freebie" thrown in to make the product more appealing to buyers - it more or less serves the same purpose as the Batman action figure that I found in the box of my breakfast cereal.
        I know that it is hard to grasp this concept since traditionally it has worked the other way round, but

    • Feel free to buy a CD. This is fine by me.

    • 1 GB miniSD card? I could care less about a CD if I get that, because once I make a few backup copies, I'll use the SD card for something else. I doubt the company's gonna give you the music on a re-writable optical disc.

    • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Monday September 22, 2008 @05:09AM (#25101161)
      Why not include a 24-bit 192 or 96 khz lossless format, and maybe something in 5.1 instead?

      Why? Because most people don't care. People who listen to ipods, buy from itunes, rip their own cds with crappy compression, and mainly listen to their music with $5 headphones, can't tell the difference between a lossless format and the common, lossy formats. That applies to the majority of consumers. Very little demand for anything better than 320kbps mp3 or aac or whatever. I like flac for archiving, personally, but I also often convert to a mediocre mp3 format for portability with my Palm Treo.

    • by AC-x (735297)

      I think this is a great idea (as long as the price is right)... A convenient format to copy to MP3 players (no waiting around for songs to rip from CD or transcoding from "higher quality" formats) and presumably I could move the songs off the memory card and use that for whatever I wanted.

      Sounds like the industry is finally coming round, now if on-line music stores were better value...

    • by vhogemann (797994)

      Well,

      Most people associate the word "MP3" with digital music... also it will play on the vast majority of devices out there, while a lossless format sometimes will need to be converted, and this might confuse regular consumers.

      But you're right, I can't see how it's any better than regular CDs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 4D6963 (933028)

      Why not include a 24-bit 192 or 96 khz lossless format

      You cannot hear the difference between a 16-bit recording and a 24-bit because in 16-bits per sample the SNR already is 96 dB. There's nothing a sampling frequency higher than 44.1 kHz will bring you since you cannot hear anything above 22 kHz. DVD Audio never took off because its target niche is the same fools who buy gold connectors, $500 wooden volume knobs or even put CDs in freezers to soften the sound (I kid you not).

      • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Monday September 22, 2008 @08:08AM (#25102149)

        There's nothing a sampling frequency higher than 44.1 kHz will bring you since you cannot hear anything above 22 kHz.

        Using 96kHz allows you to use a rather stupid filter which starts at say 30kHz and does 100% filtering only at 45kHz. Such a filter is almost certain to not cause any distortion below 20kHz. In contrast, with CD you have to use a filter which only has the range 20kHz to 22KHz to play with, which means you have to use a rather sophisticated filter (or make the cut-off frequency lower).

        You can of course do the recording at 96kHz (or higher) and then downsample to 44.1kHz using a perfect digital filter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician (215283)

      Why not include a 24-bit 192 or 96 khz lossless format

      The memory is only 1 Gig in size. This was designed for iPods and cell phones which are often used at work, in transportation, and other noisy environments and on equipment with out amps with only .1% THD or worse quality. 24 bit is lost in these invironments. There are very few golden ears listening to a nano that could even tell the difference between a CD quality lossless 44.1K sampled 16 Bit or 24 bit recording. Few can notice the change when the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c (8461)

      > Why not include a 24-bit 192 or 96 khz lossless format, and maybe something in 5.1 instead?

      Because their target market is people who listen to music on computers, cell phones, and portable music players?

      c.

  • Weird (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:39AM (#25100753)
    Ok, let me get this straight. No copy protection so it will play on anything, but it won't play on iPods because they don't have a SD slot? WTF?! If there's no copy protection, then you put the songs on your computer and then sync them to the iPod. I love how these sorts of articles are written when the person writing them has never used a computer before.
    • Re:Weird (Score:4, Funny)

      by mjpaci (33725) * on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:45AM (#25100785) Homepage Journal

      Won't play on iPods like a cd won't play on an iPod. Awesome reporting. Wasn't biased or anything, right?

      --mike

      • Re:Weird (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:02AM (#25100865)

        I don't think cluelessness is usually considered a bias.

        • by n3tcat (664243)
          I don't think so. As most bias is based in ignorance anyways, this just shows that TFA writer didn't believe in researching the information enough to write a proper article.
    • Re:Weird (Score:4, Funny)

      by Doogie5526 (737968) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:04AM (#25100871) Homepage

      Shhh... Don't tell them how easy it would be for someone like Apple to create an SD dongle for legacy iPods then integrate support for new iPods (glad their Dock Connector doesn't support USB or you could even take advantage of the aforementioned tiny USB sleeve). A small software update for support and you can listen to that music as you're walking out of the store.

    • Not since you'd get some numpty buying it and complaining that it won't play on their iPod when they get it home. Not everyone knows how to rip music you know.

      It would be more accurate to say 'this specific format won't play out of the box in an iPod', but just saying it won't is also accurate, so far as many people are concerned.

      Not, it has to be said, many people who read slashdot (I'd hope), but even then I'm not so sure.

  • EMI is a pioneer (Score:3, Informative)

    by unity100 (970058) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:39AM (#25100759) Homepage Journal
    they dont have drm on their CDs for a while now. i have easily ripped 3 EMI label big classic music compilations i bought, and im listening them on my pc since. no hassles.
    • by neocrono (619254) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:09AM (#25100915)
      That's pioneering? I didn't think we'd quite gotten to the point where a DRM-free CD was the exception rather than the rule...
    • by adpowers (153922)

      Is this the exception? I've never once encountered a CD I couldn't rip to my computer. If I did, I would return it to the store and get a refund.

      I still buy most of my music on CDs (although, the $2 specials from Amazon MP3 are slowly tipping the scales), so I think I would've encountered a non-Red Book CD by now, if they were in fact common. However, most of the CDs I've purchased recently are albums that were released decades ago, so maybe I'm not purchasing the right demographic to find them.

      • by jabithew (1340853)

        I haven't found one either but I mostly listen to independent releases. It may be that if I was a devout follower of Ms. Spears I'd have come across one...

    • by repvik (96666)

      Afaik, EMIs releases on iTunes are also available DRM-free (albeit possibly with a small premium).
      I like EMI.

  • by isBandGeek() (1369017) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:43AM (#25100779)

    But the biggest problem, he said, may be that Apple's iTunes and other download services have made customers used to buying a song at a time, not an album, and making their own compilations.

    The horror! Now we don't have to pay for the album fillers that comes with the one song that we want?

  • Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:44AM (#25100783)
    My cell phone has a microSD slot, so I might consider *wince* buying music that way. But it would need to be at a reasonable price (I'd have to think more about at what price I would pay for this) and it would have to have music I didn't already have or couldn't acquire easier from other sources. I don't have an iPod (yeah I know, I'm one of those people), so that's not a problem for me. But I'm not sure I want to have a collection of 1GB microSD cards laying around. I have a hard enough time keeping track where my keys are.

    At least they're finally trying to make something we want rather than forcing us to buy buggy whips though.
  • FINALLY! (Score:5, Funny)

    by np_bernstein (453840) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:45AM (#25100789) Homepage

    I don't know about the rest of you guys, but the idea of buying music without in some way being able to damage the environment has been KILLING me.

    Way to get on that EMI. Thank god!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      It's a good job that there's no ready-made distribution method for digital data that doesn't involve physical media, or those guys would look pretty stupid about now.

      I hear the next version will have album-art printed on the back of a panda using the tears of dolphins.

      It's amazing how so many people can spend so much time and money pussy-footing around and coming up with a million different ways to not just sell a normal MP3 file at a sensible price. Ahhh, progress.

  • by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:49AM (#25100801)
    we all know it'll only catch on if the porn industry start distributing on microSD as well.
  • "Tiny USB Sleeve"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mellon (7048) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:00AM (#25100853) Homepage

    Great. More crap to throw out. Isn't one of the big selling features of digital distribution that it produces less crap to landfill?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can put the music *directly* into a non-apple player which supports MicroSD (or any other one that accepts cards, via an adapter).

    To put it on an iPod, you would need to involve a PC. Part of the point of packing the files on an SD card in the first place is to avoid the annoying PC requirement. If you have to use a PC every time, you almost may as well buy a CD.

    • And the point of an iPod over a CD player is that you avoid the annoying 'having to carry loads of media around with you' problem. a 1GB card does not help this. 8GB cards are cheap, and 16GB cards will be soon. At 16GB, I can put pretty much all of my music (mostly 256Kb/s AAC) on to a single card. If I owned a player which took micro-SD then I'd get one of these and put all of my music on one card. Having a card that the music comes on is only useful if I buy music from a physical store (I tend to bu
  • by Yoo Chung (43695) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:07AM (#25100899) Homepage
    I don't get it. What's the difference between slotMusic and a read-only microSD card with a bunch of MP3 files on it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      A catchy name!

      Seriously, this is quite important for adoption.
    • It's sold filled with music, as opposed to empty cards, and (as I understand it) the goal is to make profit off both the music AND physical media (the media is rewritable, like a normal microSD).
  • soo... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    would that explain why samsung tried to take sandisk over?

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/samsung-mulls-buying-sandisk/story.aspx?guid={E9E929E4-4C0C-401B-91D1-05B44D4EA8B2}&dist=msr_33

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:09AM (#25100913) Homepage

    No copyright protection? So they are only releasing music that is in the public domain!?

    Or did the newspaper screw up, and mean to write "no copy protection"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They _really_ screwed up and posted the journalist's email address for the byline, so thousands of picky slashdotters can politely point out the difference between copyright and copy protection...

      • by Pofy (471469)

        On the other hand, most of the time when people (including slashdoters) write and talk about copy protection they actually mean access protection instead.

    • by houghi (78078)

      There is a difference?</sarcasm>

  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:12AM (#25100929) Homepage

    Kudos to EMI for doing something digital without DRM, but how is this better than what Amazon.com offers us now?

    I can download DRM-free songs from Amazon for less than a buck, and albums at about $8. Windows Media Player downloads the album art, and a plug-in gets me lyrics. I can transfer the song to other devices, friends, or burn to CD. Amazon's library is HUGE.

    And internet distribution doesn't impact the environment.

    About the only advantage I see to this is the "up to 320k", whereas Amazon's are 160k I believe. But, I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference.

    Physical distribution is dead. If they want to cater to impulse buyers at a retailer, install a kiosk with a variety of ports, card readers, BlueTooth, etc and let people download stuff instantly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Kudos to EMI for doing something digital without DRM, but how is this better than what Amazon.com offers us now?

      Amazon requires an internet connection.

      And a PC.
    • EMI were the first label to offer their music on the iTunes store without DRM too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by zoomosis (169771)

      About the only advantage I see to this is the "up to 320k", whereas Amazon's are 160k I believe.

      160 kbit is a bit marginal, but Amazon's MP3s are encoded at 256 kbit. For most people who aren't audiophiles, this is indistinguishable from the original CD.

      I ran MediaInfo over one of their MP3s. The output is at http://pastebin.com/m75a78b22 [pastebin.com] .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:13AM (#25100941)
    ...they have conceived of a method of using physical media to transport bits.  And they'll still charge $15 for an album.

    You know, watching these guys over the last decade has been like watching a retarded child learning to go poo in the toilet.  They're six years old when they finally get it right, and then they look at you like they've just won the Olympics.

    No disrespect to retarded children intended.
  • but it won't play on an iPod, which doesn't have a micro-SD memory slot. It has one gigabyte of memory, and the music tracks are played back at high quality.

    I don't know about you guys, but my ipod doesn't have a CD-ROM drive, either. Hasn't stopped me yet.

    Am I missing something here? Is it supposed to be some kind of deterrent that I can't just shove the thing into my little white music thingy?

  • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:31AM (#25101021)

    Ms. Quinn, the author of the Los Angeles Times article, is not a very good technology writer. She not only quotes that it won't work with iPods (which is terribly misleading; the microSD card won't, but the contained DRM-free MP3s will be very easy to work with), but she also refers to this as a "new music format".

    Medium, yes; format, no. Distributing on the microSD cards is new, but seems like something people may latch onto quickly. MP3 is old and a de facto universal format, which is what makes this even better.

  • Though that might be because I'm a cheap bastard.

    Single track on iTunes: 79p - £1.49.
    Quality: AAC lossy
    DRM: iTunes DRM
    Album art: Maybe.
    Sleeve notes: None.

    More than a couple of tracks from the same album and it rapidly becomes better value to buy the entire CD. Now, iTunes does allow you to buy the album at a cheaper per-track price, but most of the albums I've looked at the price is slightly dearer than buying the physical CD from Amazon - and the CD will be lossless, no DRM, with album art an

  • by Motley Phule (946796) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:41AM (#25101059)
    It's important for the music industry to keep people thinking, even unconsciously, that these bits and bytes need to be attached to physical media. When the nebulous nature of intellectual property is emphasised then it's more difficult to associate conventional property rights to them.
  • by SlashBugs (1339813) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:47AM (#25101085)

    Am I thinking about the same micro-SD as everyone else? Smaller than my little finger nail?

    It's small enough to get lost in your pocket, sucked up by a vacuum cleaner or whatever. They're also fiddly to handle: can you imagine picking through your album collection with a pair of tweezers, squinting at the 3mm x 5mm labels to find the one you're after?

    It seems a bizzarre choice for a portable music medium. If they're not intended for carrying around but supposed to be used only once, to get the music onto your player/computer, why not just sell the download?

    • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Monday September 22, 2008 @08:54AM (#25102591)
      CDs are just as bad. They're hard to pick up and after a while they get all scratchy. Now if there only was some kind of packaging that would make them easier to handle and at the same time protect them...

      MicroSD cards are sold in ~5x4x1 cm cases. Less easy to lose. Maybe SlotMusic will come in larger cases so they can actually have cover art. In any way you won't have a dozen MicroSD cards just lying around.
  • And what else ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveime (1253762) on Monday September 22, 2008 @06:05AM (#25101377)

    In addition to music, the slotMusic cards will come pre-loaded with other things, such as liner notes, album-cover artwork and sometimes video

    And advertisements, rootkits, DRM schemes, spyware ...

    Why is it every keydisk manufacturer thinks I want their crappy software to run every time I put a disk in the USB slot ? Sick of this nonsense, meaning your 2GB memory is actually only 1.8GB plus some non removable crap, and not one but 2 drive letters to deal with :-(

    • Re:And what else ? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jesus_666 (702802) on Monday September 22, 2008 @09:00AM (#25102657)
      Never happened to me. Maybe you'd want to buy keydisks that don't boldly advertise including the U3 stuff - in my experience those are easier to find and usualy cheaper than their U3 counterparts while still being very much usable and even decently fast. Buying devices that were specifically designed to offer a certain feature and then complaining about said feature is a bit weird.

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