FORMATS FRENZY

Record shops will package and 'burn' CDs on demand for customers...

Sony, one of the world’s biggest entertainment hardware and software corporations, announced yesterday that it plans to offer its back catalogue to record shops via a high speed digital download.

Although this has been mooted for some time – a few record stores have experimented with track-by-track compilations, allowing shoppers to compile their own albums – this allows the shops access to online stock rather than having to actually have the CDs in the shop.

This is in response to shops losing custom when they find that the records they want are not in stock. Sony – whose roster includes everyone from Michael Jackson to the Manics (in the UK at least) – is the first major label to seriously commit to digitizing their back catalogue.

Sony is involved in researching the Secure internet Download System – a corporate alternative to the Mp3 format that involves Sony, EMI and other major companies – the new download – in association with a company called Digital On Demand – allows record shops to burn CDs and package them in-store and is aimed at the conventional high street consumer.

The new format wars are in the early stages of a major skirmish; as well as MiniDisc, DVD-Audio discs and DVD-Roms – which could conceivably contain an artist’s entire output on one CD-sized disc – are already set to hit the shops this year with Bjork pioneering the new format with her latest release ‘All Is Full Of Love’ include singles on 3.5″ floppies and albums on Zip-drive discs, to be played on PCs.