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Universal to revive dead CD single format

Tiny discs to restore single market in turn

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Universal Music's UK wing is to bring the 8cm CD back from the dead later this month, in a desperate bid to revive the singles market. The 'new' format will be called Pocket CD, but is essentially the compact CD developed in the mid-1980s as the format for CD singles.

Alas, all but a handful of CD players were unable to cope with the format, requiring owners to clip extension rings around each disc to take them up to the standard 12cm CD album size.

The 8cm format passed away, at least in the music market, though you do occasionally come across them offered as novelties or as driver discs for small IT products such as USB Flash drives.

Each Pocket CD will contain three tracks and - for the first time - codes that enable buyers to download ringtone versions of the songs. Mobile phone ringtones are seen as the basis for an increasingly lucrative music market - sales have already outstripped CD singles.

Global ringtone sales will total around $3.5bn this year, compared with just $232.5m last year for global singles sales, down 18.7 per cent, the Financial Times notes. In 2003, the value of the UK singles market dwindled 30 per cent to £85.2m.

Of course, since a ringtone is merely an alert, we can't see anyone actually using them as a way to experience music. 'Call me now, please - I want to listen to the new Kylie single.' However, such is the turnover of ringtones, that it's going to be big business whether folk are listening to them or not.

Universal reckons other labels will follow its lead. They may do so, but will it make much difference? If the singles market is going anywhere, it's online. Apple and Napster need not fear the Pocket CD, and they too may make a move into ringtone territory in due course, assuming the major labels can agree to realistic licences. UK digital music provider Wippit already offers ringtones. ®

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