Zune launches with free concerts

REDMOND, WA: On the eve of portable music player Microsoft Zune's Tuesday launch, the company worked with agency Edelman to throw six free concerts in cities around the US.

REDMOND, WA: On the eve of portable music player Microsoft Zune's Tuesday launch, the company worked with agency Edelman to throw six free concerts in cities around the US.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was scheduled to preside at a Secret Machines performance in Seattle at Westlake Park, with other events taking place in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, and New York. Los Angeles' Red Hot Chili Peppers and New York's Queens of the Stone Age shows were ticketed to prevent a mob scene, but tickets were available free at Circuit City stores.

The company got the word out to bloggers during the weekend and to radio Monday morning, in an attempt to avoid over-hype and to curate "flash" events, said Carmen Johnson, SVP, Edelman's Seattle office.

The Zune, which some have called Microsoft's long-awaited iPod killer, allows the user to share his or her music selections wirelessly with other Zune users. The product's campaign tagline is "Join the social." Each Zune is imprinted with "Hello from Seattle" greeting on the back.

The agency aimed to play on Zune's selling point of "share and discovery," with the concerts, which were set as underground, community-building events. Johnson said there was branding planned at the each show, and the PR team placed Zune ambassadors on site with the devices to let the public try them out.

"It is a celebration of music, very much the social aspect of music," Johnson said of the live shows.

The Zune goes on sale Tuesday at nearly 30,000 US retailers, more outlets than any other Microsoft product. It retails for about $250. The 30GB Zune digital media player is available in black, brown and white and comes equipped with wireless for Zune-to-Zune sharing of select music, pictures, and home recordings. Unlike the Apple iPod, it also features an FM radio.

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