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The Playbutton: a way to wear your music tastes on your sleeve

Portable music player aims for the collector market

In the world of music, the decision was made years ago: the universally accepted path lies in the digital format. But there is always some leeway on the fringes, and some people take advantage of that fact to champion lost ideals through creations such as the Playbutton, a wearable album that will surely appeal to real fans of music - those who used to spend hours sifting through vinyl records and who still enjoy making mix tapes for their friends.

"The Playbutton is for those of us who still hang on to what's tangible," says its creator Nick Dangerfield, a Spaniard of British origin who lives in New York. After working for a company called Powershovel, where he developed a Super-8 digital camera called Harinezumi, Dangerfield set up his own firm and launched the Playbutton three weeks ago.

The device is a round, button-like music player that only plays one album, in the old-fashioned way: the songs are in the order the band wanted them to be, and cannot be deleted or replaced with other content. It is attached to one's clothes via a pin in the back, and the four-hour battery can be recharged using a USB port.

But why would someone want to spend $20 (¤14) on an item like this when the same album will be available on iTunes for just 9 euros? "The Playbutton is a way to express your passion for a band and to support it financially," says Dangerfield. "It is a different sound experience from an iPhone, which is an opaque object that does not let you know what someone is listening to."

The list of bands soon to have their own Playbutton includes Mount Eerie, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Oval and Javelin. But the first band to embrace the technology was Bubbles, a favorite in New York's underground circles. At a recent party inside a private loft, the band introduced its homonymous album, released exclusively through Playbutton and produced by Parte LLC.

Plans for record label

Dangerfield and his business partner, the Spaniard Víctor Esther, who is also the venture's art director, eventually want to create a small record label that will produce albums in Playbutton format.

But what Dangerfield likes the most is having created an object that "brings music to places where it didn't use to go," such as the clothing store Opening Ceremony, a place of pilgrimage for trend seekers that recently created its own compilation of love songs in this format. The Playbutton will soon go on sale at Madrid's Casa Peseta.