Objects of Affection

Speaking on June 7, the day of Steve Jobs’ blunder-filled announcement of the iPhone 4, Donnelly acknowledges that the technology has come full circle.

We began in late ’07 using MicroSD cards with the specific application of being able to deliver something straight to a smartphone,” says Donnelly, who’s spent the last few years wracking his brain for a way to sidestep that process, only to see smartphones become ubiquitous and almost as fully capable as flash drives. “It was just a matter of looking at the technical and business aspects to make sure we were coming up with a solution that allowed us to deliver what we wanted to deliver.”

Donnelly may see smartphones as the next step in digital music’s immediate gratification, but he’s eternally cautious. “The real concern we still have is stability: making sure the systems are tuned specifically to handle what we do with them; making sure there’s not too much bloat in terms of plug-ins; making sure the memory is at maximum capacity for the machine, and being able to—under the gun as a live performance is happening—have the confidence that the system won’t crash. That’s the real key to making it work in a portable sense, [saying], ‘OK, I’m going to go and push record and it’s going to make it for 90 minutes or more without any stability issues.’”

It’s unlikely, however, that the cycle will return to MicroSD chips for the iPhone, for the same reason they never caught on in the first place. While USB ports are rectangular in nature—the even-sided shape of ho-hum normalcy—objects that port into them bear just enough heft to trigger covetousness. People are possessive to the point of feeling actual affection for their computers (and their computers’ aesthetically similar accessories; see: iAnything). Not many people name their circuit boards, but laptops? You bet. People want—even love—nifty little objects. Chips don’t seem to inspire the same acquisitive emotion.

Customers crave instant portability and good design. They may also want to eliminate extra procedural steps between seeing a band live on stage and possessing forever what they’ve just seen that band do, yes, but as anyone who’s ever paid $35 for a concert T-shirt can tell you, live merchandising is rarely just about common sense—the tactile gratification of the wristband and being able to flash the band logo (“I was there”) seal the deal.

The biggest-selling item in Aderra’s history was the Lexus of concertgoing memorabilia: a tiny, custom-built military dog tag offered by the Cult and engraved “Cult Love Live MMIX.” The contents of the flash drive within the dog tag were live recordings of select dates from the Cult’s 2009 tour, and it sold for $40.

We sold out of those pretty quickly,” says Garfield.   Get In Media

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