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Posted by Mark Mulligan on September 9, 2009
So today Apple announced the long anticipated new ‘music format’ codenamed 'Cocktail', productized as ‘iTunes Albums’. There are some nice features (photos, exclusive videos, lyrics, customized artwork) that deliver a good user experience. It’s a quantum leap from the standard album download. But is it enough? I think it is a useful transitory step, but not the end game. I’d go as far to say I think it it pulls its punches. The bottom line is that music buyers are rapidly falling out of love with buying the album. Downloads from stores such as Apple’s iTunes are predominately single tracks, as are P2P downloads. Little wonder when you consider the fact that the first commercial album release made its way onto the shelves almost exactly 100 years ago in April 1909. Since then it hasn’t changed in any meaningful sense. Sure the actual mediahas changed, as has the number of tracks, but it remains essentially a bunch of linearly programmed tracks.
Music fans are dissecting the album because they can. Tagging photos and lyrics to albums will be welcome new to existing album buyers but isn't enough to persuade the single track generation to convert to album buying. Now has come the time to embrace the potential that throwing off the straight jacket of the album format allows (see my previous post for more on this). iTunes Albums bring much added value to album, but it is essentially a face lift rather than the new product that it required. Of course this is a first release, so in future iterations I’d like to see much more interactivity and for iTunes Album and iTunes Pass to come together to become the delivery channel for releases as a continual artist-fan relationship rather than just a platform for the stop start album release schedule.