Industry Plays Card Game: Will the Gamble Pay?

Amidst eroding physical sales, the music industry is now playing with a slightly different retail format.

Instead of the troubled disc, more action is happening around the gift card, a highly successful format in the broader marketplace.

For years, Apple has been bumping Christmastime downloads through iTunes Gift Cards, an effortless stocking stuffer.  Starbucks also offers a selection of artist-specific cards, both on the promotional and paid level.  Those cards drive traffic towards the iTunes Store, part of a growing partnership between the companies.

Now, Sony BMG is trying its hand.  The company recently unleashed a limited selection of album cards containing MP3s from top artists.  That program, called Platinum MusicPass, officially went live on Tuesday.  The Sony BMG initiative represents another attempt to offer some oxygen to music retailers, though it remains unclear if the gamble will spark greater sales.

Elsewhere, a lesser-known firm is also broadening the format.  Just recently, Nielsen Soundscan started counting card-based album sales from New Jersey-based Dropcards, a longtime presence in digital download cards.  “The interest, over the course of the last few years, in selling these cards at retail has been overwhelming,” the company explained.