Monday, 27 July 2009

Apple's cocktail to resurrect the album

Simon Le BonSimon Le Bon via

Having decimated the concept of the album with a la carte song downloads, Apple has now apparently seen the error of its ways (i.e. 79p versus £7.99 in revenue) and is teaming up with the remaining four "majors" to take back the music.

Dubbed "Project Cocktail" (yeah, this sounds as hip as the Tom Cruise flick of the same name), the idea is "It's all about recreating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music," according to a report in the FT.

Right now with some releases on iTunes, if you buy the whole album, you get a digital booklet (read PDF) that includes cover art and liner notes. Project Cocktail will apparently be an evolution of this., with the "killer app" being that you'll be able to launch the songs from within the booklet. Whether or not you need iTunes running is to be seen. I doubt Apple would miss this trick though.

Wired take the discussion further ruminating on the future of the album cover. When I interviewed Simon LeBon in 1997 we discussed the decimation of the album cover from that decade's perspective - shrinking a 12" square to 5" was tantamount to blasphemy, with LeBon lamenting, "I like record shops. I actually like walking away with a lump of plastic under your arm." With the evolution to digital it's got even worse - from 5" to mere pixels, depending on playback device.

My concern for Project Cocktail is that most of today's music isn't really worth listening to, thanks mainly to a record industry in perpetual free fall, choosing music that fits the "now" instead of something that's got longevity. It's a rarity if most acts actually get to the point of releasing an album, let along the number of releases that warrant the greatest hits hallmark.

Having said that, most of today's music fans (read: the young) have no real concept of an "album" anyway, and this could just be seen as yet another attempt for the labels to try and maintain the "living in the past" stance that's served them so well up until this point.

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