Who Will Define the Digital Album?
At the center of the struggle is, not surprisingly, Apple. The maker of iThings is working with the major labels to develop a digital album format, code-named Cocktail, that would combine photos, lyric sheets, and liner notes in an interactive format that would enable users to click songs. "It's not just a bunch of PDFs," an Apple exec told the Financial Times (free read with registration).
But even as they cooperate with Apple on developing the digital album, the major labels have plans for a version of their own, reports news.com. In fact, they initiated their project before Apple got started on Cocktail, so the latter has understandably raised some hackles. But it still makes sense for the labels to pursue their own vision of the digital album because iTunes is not the only online store in the universe. The labels need a digital album format to offer Amazon and numerous other online retailers.
Cocktail and its non-Apple shadows are responses to the increasing tendency of online music purchasers to buy single tracks rather than entire albums. This has turned music retailing on its head. The labels long for a return to the time when consumers routinely plunked down their hard earned money for entire albums. Whether either of these prospective digital album formats will successfully buck the trend remains to be seen.