Some of the world's largest record companies are testing a new music format in Europe known as the pocket CD to spin new life into faltering music singles.

Some of the world's largest record companies are testing a new music format in Europe known as the pocket CD to spin new life into faltering music singles.

At three inches in diameter -- or roughly half the size of a conventional compact disc -- the pocket CD carries a selection of music tracks and mobile phone ring tones from a host of artists ranging from 50 Cent to Black Eyed Peas.

The technology made its debut in Germany last summer with Universal Music, Sony Music and later EMI and BMG, all selling a limited number of the CDs to test the public's appetite.

Now, Universal Music, for one, is introducing the format in the United Kingdom next month. A spokesman said it will ship 1,000 units of the pocket CD for 16 of its artists including 50 Cent and the Rasmus. Pricing has yet to be determined, he added.

With ringtone sales on the rise and CD single sales plummeting, record executives are hopeful the new format will reverse the fortunes of an industry beset by rampant piracy and slumping sales.

The discs can be played on a PC where the ringtones can be downloaded and then transferred to a mobile phone.

The pocket CD is viewed as a way to recapture the market for tech-savvy teenagers and twentysomethings -- the same group that has abandoned record shops in favor of downloading songs off the Internet. The CD single is one of the biggest casualties of the downloading revolution.

"We believe there is still demand for a physical single format, and hope that folding in a ringtone will make pocket CDs an attractive - and, hopefully, collectible - purchase," a Universal Music U.K. spokesman said.

"That said, it is a very early days, and this is purely a test to see how the market responds," he added.

A BMG spokesman in Germany said that while sales went well, retailers had difficulties stocking the odd-shaped disc forcing the label to stop the program last month.

For Universal, the move comes amid plans to phase out the sale of copy-protected compact discs in Germany, a market battered by online piracy and CD-burning.

A Universal spokesman said the decision was made to address ongoing concerns that copy-protected CDs do not play in some hi-fi devices. The company could return to some form of copy-protected discs after further fine-tuning of the technology, he added.

--Reuters