Since the first week of December, current full-length CD releases from four Atlantic/Lava artists— Sugar Ray, Simple Plan, Sean Paul and Nappy Roots— have been available for purchase to be played on the new Nokia 3300 hybrid cellphone/MP3 Player, using the MultiMedia Card format. A compilation record on MMC is being used as a premium with the purchase of the Nokia 3300.
"Usually wireless companies come to us with typical cross-promotion ideas and ring-tone deals and such, but this was a little different in that it's a manipulation of music delivery. It's exciting for us to test the waters," said Lee Stimmel, Atlantic's senior-VP of strategic marketing & business development. "There is no downside for us. Worst possible scenario is it's great exposure and merchandising in more outlets than I would have been in during Christmas for my hard-core records. Best-case scenario is we sell through these and build a platform out like iTunes." Stimmel, like other label execs, regards the wireless platform as a major opportunity to harness the same digital technology that has been primarily responsible for its recent woes.
This program grew out of the label's relationship with AT&T, going back three years, when the wireless outfit became the presenting sponsor of MTV's "Live at the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame".
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% The MMC-formatted records will retail at national AT&T Wireless outlets at $28.95, well above, the $16-18 that traditional music retailers charge. Brian Murphy, CEO of branded entertainment producer Fearless Entertainment, who brokered the deal, acknowledged that "you're not going to be able to sell a million of anything at that price." He said the value of this program would be to give both parties an indication of the potential of this as a new format. "The MMC compilation as giveaway was a slam dunk, but the leap of faith is to introduce albums to show the possibility [via early adopters]."
If prices fall and the convenience of the product—changing the MMC smart cards for records can be cumbersome—improves, the upside will increase, considering the state-of-the-art sonic quality.
Brian Linver, director of equipment marketing at AT&T Wireless, was careful in not hyping the potential of the MMC format. "Our stores are broadening their scope in terms of what we do or don't do but it may be a bit of a stretch to say that AT&T Wireless stores are becoming music stores."