Universal is targeting the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley & The Wailers' classic album Exodus as the artist albums launch-pad for the USB stick format on May 21.
But the major, which was behind the first USB releases when it put out singles by Keane and Fratellis last autumn, will be beaten to market by Emap - whose releases are distributed by Universal - which is planning to issue a new rave compilation, Kiss Does...Rave, in the format via HMV stores and on the Kiss and HMV websites next Monday (April 30).
For Universal, the Marley re-issue as a USB stick will be the first of what it plans will be a number of album releases in the format, as it looks to add new impetus to a physical albums market in which sales were at their lowest for an opening quarter for five years in quarter one.
"We think there is something in the USB format," says Universal commercial director Brian Rose. "We were the first company to take it to the market, having success with Keane and Fratellis, and we always had the Bob Marley Exodus 30th anniversary re-issue in mind for the format."
Rose adds Universal is now pushing for chart eligibility for the stick format. While this will not happen by the time the Marley re-issue comes out, he is hopeful it will be agreed by the half-way point this year.
"It's been through the first stage with the Chart Supervisory Committee and I believe the response has been positive, but it's not been rubber-stamped," he says.
Emap, meanwhile, is planning to back its USB-issued compilation album with promotion via Emap Music TV stations as well as the Kiss and Big City radio networks and DAB stations The Hits and Q. A poster campaign will back the release in London, along with print advertising in Mixmag.
Emap music director John Mansfield says, "We believe new innovative formats like the USB memory stick album bridge the gap between the physical and digital purchase experience. Consumers are more demanding and expect new and exciting format ideas with added value."
The album is the latest in the Kiss Does... series, and will be available on both CD and 1GB USB stick. The release features 26 tracks, album artwork and bespoke packaging.
For Kiss, compilation albums are a means of developing an income stream beyond traditional on-air advertising, and the company is keen to push ahead with new formats. In January, it partnered with trackitdown.net to launch an online service allowing listeners to buy all tracks played by specialist DJs on the Kiss network.