HitClips Are Hot

Where Pogs and Pokemon once ruled, HitClips have taken over. HitClips are hot. So hot, in fact, that Hasbro Incorporated's Tiger Electronics division has sold more than 20 million of them at $3.99 each. That's $80 million gross on a single product, a figure that probably no high-end audio company has ever reached.

Tiger Electronics has also sold truckloads of HitClips players at just under $20 each. But unless you happen to have kids under the age of 12, you've probably never heard of the format—and for good reason. HitClips are so far below the high-fidelity radar that audiophiles would never even notice them.

HitClips, which resemble the CompactFlash solid-state memory cards used with digital cameras, contain ultra-low-fi mono one-minute special mixes of pop songs by the likes of Britney Spears and 'N Sync. They don't even contain entire songs, which doesn't seem to bother the kids who buy them. HitClips chips can be carried in bandoleers, played in clip-on players, and traded like grade-school currency.

HitClips were first distributed through a promotional tie-in with fast-food chain McDonald's, but have become so popular that they are now part of many artists' marketing plans. As low-cost promotional items, HitClips may boost CD sales by generating interest in artists that kids may not have previously heard. The clips are tightly bunched in frequently-churned displays that create "buzz by association" for little-known artists.

"When record labels and artists saw the momentum, they were all ready to jump on board," Tiger Electronics music division president Dave Capper told Chris Marlowe of the Hollywood Reporter. "Now we have more interested artists than we can fit in the line."

HitClips are also a revenue stream for participating artists, according to entertainment attorney Ken Hertz. "Records are poorly marketed to a wide constituency," he told Marlowe. "My people don't make money off records . . . They don't generate a lot of revenue." HitClips can do a lot to change that picture, Capper agreed. "For the right artists," he explained, "we've become an invaluable part of the marketing mix."