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Adventures in music retailing

HMV is said to be opening a new experimental music store where users can download songs directly to a memory stick. Extrapolate this news with Apple's Starbucks announcement and you can see what the future of music retailing could be.

The Times Online reports that U.K. music retailer HMV is opening the first of a new type of store in Dudley, west of Birmingham. The highlight: in-store kiosks with USB ports that will allow users to download free music and video files to a memory stick, for later transfer to their computer or other device. There are lots of other ambient-futurist touches, like big plasma displays, a mini Apple store, iMacs to play with, and a juice bar. As well as old-fashioned CDs and DVDs for sale.

Combine this idea with the Apple-Starbucks partnership announced on Wednesday, and I think you can get a good idea where music retailing is going. Instead of big open spaces with racks of physical music, clever retailers will create in-store experiences pervaded by, but not dominated by, music. Imagine an Internet cafe with a bar menu, a great sound system, and occasional live music performances. A Wi-Fi network is a must, with a "now playing" feature that lets you buy the currently playing song from an affiliated online music store--you could access the store from your own device or from one of the connected computers in the place. And of course, no DRM or proprietary formats, so the technology stays in the background where it belongs.

This sounds more appealing to me than a lot of other alternatives, like online music services where you have to listen to an adbefore each song. I'd rather nurse a beer or two for the privilege of grabbing my music for free.