The album-on-USB has proven popular for pop star Lady Gaga, whose limited edition USB stick containing her latest LP sold out in 24 hours.
As noted by Everything USB, the album, which sold in USB form for 40 pounds, or roughly $60, is no longer available from Universal’s online store. This may not be such an unbelievable feat given that only 250 sticks were made available, but it does offer a couple of lessons:
The first is that despite record labels’ complaints about piracy, fans are willing to pay a premium for music when given the proper incentive. In fairness, Fame Monster is downloaded tens of thousands of times daily, but there are at least 250 people — probably more — that are willing to pay four times the album’s price for something special.
This also underscores how the USB album is still a niche offering, and I’m not sure that’ll ever change. Albums on USB have advantages over the CD, such as the ability to store video or additional tracks, but they also have drawbacks. You can’t listen to a USB stick in the car or through an iPod dock, and once you’ve loaded the music onto a computer or MP3 player, the stick itself has limited value, and there’s a price premium over CDs.
But by turning the USB stick into a special product, fans get something unique that can be used as a fashionable USB drive, in turn reminding of them of their fandom and potentially leading to more sales. The same principle applies to box sets on USB, like the one offered by The Beatles, which included music in lossless FLAC as well as MP3 format. Which brings me to the last point: Lady Gaga fans, at least in this case, aren’t bothered by lossy compression.