Eleven months ago, when writing about Magnatune’s TunePlug USB Drive that comes pre-loaded with music, I asked the question, “is it possible that we’ll start to see promotional products that bundle player and music at prices little more than you would normally pay for the music alone?” Now that Dixons is offering a 512MB MP3 player for £39.99, pre-loaded with music from unsigned bands, that day is more or less here.
Of course, this is being presented as an MP3 player with free music, rather than music with a free player (which was closer to Magnatune’s proposition of music with free storage device). The rationale for that is partly that the music is from unsigned acts looking for exposure, and the customer doesn’t get to choose what music goes on the player. But also customers are used to thinking of music as a free promotional giveaway, and unused to thinking of hardware in the same way.
Could they ever reverse this way of thinking? The recording industry would dearly love them to: it would be the ultimate revenge on Apple etc. For £39.99, the customers are getting about a hundred tracks. That’s about 40 pence per track of brand new music — half the price of the iTunes Music Store — and you get a free MP3 player thrown in.
(Note: I can’t find the source press release for this announcement on Dixons’ site. Bizarrely the same 512MB MP3 player that is mentioned in the Digital Lifestyles feature at £39.99 with pre-loaded music is, at the time of writing, listed on Dixons’ web site at £44.99 without the music!)