Is the CD format dead? Universal Music, who are behind such artists as U2 and Mariah Carey, don't think so. They are planning a strategy to revamp the format, introducing new tiers of CD packaging in Europe. These will range from plush, deluxe versions of CDs to bare-bones cardboard sleeves, which will be intended to be sold at prices that equate to those charged for online sales of music.

Despite these days of MP3 players and iTunes and so forth, the CD is still the main medium by which music is sold. So Universal Music Group International plans to reboot the consumer's experience of the format. Some ninety percent of their sales are still in physical, as opposed to electronic format, so the CD is still very important to them. And they want to ensure that the format endures for as long as possible.

"Our digital business is firing on all cylinders, but we continue to believe in the physical CD as well, because it's how most of our consumers continue to buy their music. We've listened to their views about the value and choice of CDs, and this significant upgrade in our packaging - at no extra cost to fans - reflects their preferences and habits," said Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal's international division.
The two major formats proposed are DeLuxe (which will be aimed at the gift market and will sell for €19.99, with a bonus CD or DVD included with fancy packaging) and the basic format would CD contained in a card case with no sleeve notes. There are also plans to revamp the existing jewel case CD design, in order to make it sturdier. The formats are due to be introduced across the UK and Europe from September.