Sony BMG Music Entertainment is about to make its first foray into the MP3 format when it launches artist-specific digital download album cards in mid-January, sources say.

Apparently modeled on the iTunes digital download album cards, Sony BMG will place 40-50 album cards in about five large retailers. The cards will be a select mix of hit and catalog titles from artists such as Bob Dylan, Pink and Bruce Springsteen, as well as a few compilation releases.

The cards, which sources say are priced at $12.99, will come with a code that can be redeemed at a Sony BMG download store, which is expected to be called musicpass.com. Currently, no such site is live on the web.

Sony BMG is using an intermediary company, Incomm, which specializes in gift cards, to cut the deals with accounts. Sony BMG's move towards testing MP3 has been in the works for the last few months, sources say. They also add other MP3 tests are being contemplated by the company.

Sony BMG declined to comment.