Friday, August 30, 2002

HERE IT COMES NOW - THE FOUR TRACK FOR A NEW AGE: It might seem from time to time that we believe everything done by record labels is evil, wrong, grasping and bad. Of course, that's not true. Major labels funded the later Boo Radleys albums, underwrote Sonic Youth, were bankrolling Blur while they were a creative force, and so on. It's just everything the labels do at a management, policy level that sucks...
And here comes a new thing. The labels are pushing a whole new format - DataPlay. As tiny as the bit on a CD where it stops being a disc - and as such, the Polo Hole of the music industry - it's tiny, and, erm, that's about it. The advantages for the consumer it holds over CDs hangs solely in the size, but compared to an i-pod it's still looking like set dressing from the Borrowers movie. Geegaws like "Oh look, there's some pictures on the disc, too" are trying to dress up stuff that comes as standard on the grubbiest indie CD as DVD-style 'extra features'. So, why would the labels be keen for Data-Play to catch on? Well, first up, there's the mouthwatering prospect of selling you the records you already own on vinyl, tape and CD all over again - fill the gap between new Britneys by selling the old ones again - and then, of course, these new babies are hugely copy protected - not only by the technology of the disc itself, but the little darlings won't fit in the CD drawer of your computer, much less play in 'em.
It's probably little surprise that the technology is basically owned by the labels - Universal were part of a $50million lifeline to the ailing Dataplay which has been laying off workers ahead of the launch; the labels have also been rushing stuff out into the shops in a bid to prop up the firm.
Whatever, it's clear that the idea is flawed - company head Volks rold DarwinMag its storage capacity beat Memory Stick several times over; this would have been true when the product was due to hit the market in 2001, but delays have meant it enters a shopfloor already stuffed with multi gigabite music players, most of which are smaller. Obviously technology predicitions can come back to haunt us, but we reckon that this one is probably the lamest music format since Digital Compact Cassette. And at least that could play your old tapes.
It's small. And - what, exactly? [New York Times] - this is meant to make my record collection obsolete again, is it?

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