Your Thoughts on Albums: Will More Interactive Content Increase Their Appeal, or Not? | iLounge Backstage


Your Thoughts on Albums: Will More Interactive Content Increase Their Appeal, or Not?

Last month, word leaked out that Apple was working on “Cocktail,” a bundle of “interactive liner notes, videos, lyrics, and other interactive content” designed to help increase the appeal of full albums, and possibly justify CD-like album prices. The idea: users today are accustomed to downloading or ripping albums as little more than individual songs, occasionally with PDF-format digital booklets, and lose out on the traditional experience of opening a CD, flipping through all the lyrics and liner notes, and enjoying bonuses the artists want to include; this would restore and enhance that content, apparently in a single wrapper… which would likely be playable only with Apple’s software and/or devices.

Rather than editorializing on the topic, we wanted to pose a question to you: do you care? Would you have any interest in buying full albums if they came loaded with these sorts of extras? Is price more important to you than extras when you consider buying full albums? Or has the concept of an album basically dead to you because of single sales?

« Galcon As Object Lesson in iPhone App Development and Refreshing

iPhone 3G Refurbs, or, More Fun With AT&T »

Related Stories



The only thing that may get me to purchase digital downloads is if albums were made available in Apple Lossless at no additional cost. Apple can sell a 1-2GB TV show for $1.99, but they can’t sell a 350MB lossless album for $9.99?

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on August 11, 2009 at 9:43 AM (CDT)


The album is dead.  The recording industry killed it two decades ago, in order to prop up the single.  They killed it by promoting terrible bands with one good song, and filling the rest of the album with crap.  How many bands in recent memory have released an album that had more than one radio hit on it before cutting a new album?  It used to be the case that half (or more) of the songs on an album went on to become radio hits, and there wouldn’t be a new album until the existing one was played out.  And that’s not because bands want to make crappy music - they’re bent over by the music industry, and very few artists have enough success and clout to make the kind of music they really want to make.

They trained consumers to want the one good song and reject the crap by shuffling out one album after another full of filler wrapped around one good song.  Now they’re finally realizing that their costs on digital media are tiny and the margins so great, so the best way for them to maximize profit is to go back to selling us multiple tracks at once - the album.  Well, guess what… they’re going to have to show us that every track is worth it now that they’ve trained us to pick and choose the single tracks we want.  Once again, the industry fails at picking a business model that works and making it appeal to the consumer.

Posted by Tim on August 11, 2009 at 9:57 AM (CDT)


Give it up guys.  I don’t want to be sold more useless junk to help “justify” the album price.  I want a better deal.  Make the album $7.99 and I would be more likely to buy it rather than a single track.  Throwing more junk on my hard drive isn’t going to work.

Posted by Rob on August 11, 2009 at 10:10 AM (CDT)


It’s simple really.  If I want I whole album I buy the physical copy so I can rip it lossless.  Until the iTunes store offers lossless albums I could care less.

Posted by Stelios on August 11, 2009 at 10:27 AM (CDT)


I think that more content for the same price would not bother me, but I can tell that isn’t what these guys are thinking. If they try to jack costs up for the album then I will get them at Amaxon instead. Only a few bands really make albums anymore (i.s. Mastodon’s Crack the Skye) so it is often better to just buy the songs that you like.

Posted by Jiji on August 11, 2009 at 10:31 AM (CDT)


It would have to be some pretty compelling content to “save” the album, and I’m not sure it’s worth saving.  When one of the biggest costs associated with distributing music is the media, then it makes sense to put as much music on an album as possible. But if everything is digital, then what’s the point? If they want to sell albums, I suggest recording coherent albums that are consistently good from start to finish. It’s been done, and when it’s done, people buy the whole album.  A package deal to encourage people to buy an album might otherwise buy piecemeal sounds very much like a trick to enable record companies to see some profit for tracks that aren’t compelling enough to be bought individually.

That said, I still buy albums.  If I find an artist I really like, I want to hear everything they’ve made, not just whatever track I happened upon to spike my interest. But that’s my buying pattern, and it won’t change with addition of extra files. 90% of my listening is done on the go, so I rarely get around to reading the liner notes when I do have them.  If I buy a single track, it’s because that’s the only track that interests me.  If I’m only interested in one song, am I going to come up 10X the purchase price for a couple of extra files? No, not likely.

The music industry could save the album by making good albums. No other tricks will help.  If some artists want to focus on singles, that’s fine, too.  Some good albums are really only a collection of good singles, and lose nothing by being split up.  Some albums have a certain cohesiveness in sound or theme that makes the album work well as a collection. I expect/hope we will still see similar efforts in the future, liner notes and extra files notwithstanding.

Posted by Rob E. on August 11, 2009 at 10:36 AM (CDT)


I wouldn’t go for it.  if i’m buyng an album, it’s because I like the band and want all the songs (or the song i want is Album Only for some odd reason).  I don’t want a bunch of interactive liner notes and PDFs.

Posted by DoktorH on August 11, 2009 at 10:44 AM (CDT)


My recommendation: sell individual tracks in AAC as usual, but sell the complete album in Apple Lossless with a PDF of the cover artwork and liner notes at no additional cost.  If all I want is a single track, AAC would be sufficient, but if I am buying the album its because I really like it.

Posted by Jason on August 11, 2009 at 11:07 AM (CDT)


For me it all comes down to the quality of content. Like a lot of others have complained, there are too many acts out there that produce one or two decent songs and use filler for the rest of the tracks and call it an “album.”

No matter what “Cocktail” winds up being, it’s still not a substitute for a well produced album.

I think the die-hard fans might go for “Cocktail,” but it’s doubtful that the extras might entice a casual listener to purchase an entire album. My personal preference is still the buy on CD whenever I can for an artist that I like. If Cocktail’s offerings are compelling enough, I might consider the digital album too. Linear notes or PDFs aren’t enough—my preference would be for stuff like additional tracks not available on the CD (outtakes, remixes, live tracks), video documentaries, wallpapers for my desktop and iPod touch, a Tap Tap Revenge version of the artist’s tunes, etc. Dave Matthews Band does a lot of this stuff on iTunes and if it were all packaged up with their newest CD (which in some cases it is), I’d certainly be interested.

Posted by cchanpsu on August 11, 2009 at 11:51 AM (CDT)


Probably 95% of the time the album is the cinderblock that they chain to the gas station restroom key. As #1 said, if they want to sell albums, offer them in lossless.
How about instead of forcing the album on us, offer us the option of paying an extra buck or two for a full length preview of the entire album with the purchase of the single. If the entire album is really that great they shouldn’t be afraid to let us sample the goods.

Posted by Paul on August 11, 2009 at 11:58 AM (CDT)


In my opinion, the top selling “artists” are incapable of producing a coherent selection of 12-15 tracks that would merit being sold as an album. There are a few exceptions, such as Outkast, but they are rare. Lesser known, and less financially secure bands are already doing the album distribution via their websites. I don’t think I need Apple to get between me and the indies.

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on August 11, 2009 at 12:09 PM (CDT)


I really have little need for the bundled stuff.  I like the convenience of downloading individual tracks from iTunes and sometimes full albums if the price is right.  If I can get the physical CD at the same price as iTunes, then I might get it instead just so my wife can throw it in her car CD changer for ease for her.  I really can’t remember the last time I even looked through the extras and I feel like I purchase a fair amount of music.

Posted by TosaDeac on August 11, 2009 at 12:49 PM (CDT)


The music industry is going to be crap for years to come. The music is crap (exceptions noted), the formats are crap (MP3 and AAC are fantastically inferior to analog and High bitrate CDs and DVDs), and the music industry clearly hates it’s customers. Only the distribution methods are winners. People have gotten used to worse and worse audio fidelity in order to get more and more convenience. That has to have an effect on the actual content; the music. But with Napster, iTunes, and subsequent music thieving venues (god love them) we’ve been trained to listen to a song at a time, rather than a whole record. The powers that be keeps wanting it to go back to the way it was. It won’t.

Posted by Jeff Halmos on August 11, 2009 at 2:00 PM (CDT)


As long as they keep producing CD’s, that will be my primary mode of media purchasing.  I may dabble in digital downloads, but I think I am in agreement with many of the others posting on here that the Album is quintessential for any true serious music fan.

Posted by K.C. Hendricks on August 11, 2009 at 2:06 PM (CDT)


This has been tried before in various forms on disc, with the CD Extra format that allowed CD-ROM content in a second session on the CD, and the DualDisc format that put a DVD layer on the back side of the CD. It didn’t work before.

Seems like most consumers just buy downloads of singles. Some buy full album downloads for bands they like and respect. Some still buy CDs so they can have a lossless rip or a physical backup. And a few buy LPs because they prefer vinyl or like large-format artwork. Nobody wants a bunch of crap “multimedia” content that harkens back to the early shovelware days of CD-ROM.

Posted by Ward on August 11, 2009 at 4:15 PM (CDT)


“Cocktail” sounds good only if Apple somehow allow for the pdf with liner notes and other stuff to be integrated with the album when copied onto the iPhone/ iPod. It’s only when I listen to albumns that I want to check out the lyrics, liner notes and other stuff on the booklet. If it is a static file that only sits on iTunes, then no matter how interactive the file is, it is more like a missed opportunity.

Overall, “Cocktail” will still be a small bonus, like Coverflow on the iTunes and iPod. It will never replace the physical CD. If Apple includes it as a bonus when purchasing the album, people will be happy. But if they plan to charge more, then they will find it very difficult to sell.

Posted by sreedhar on August 12, 2009 at 1:54 AM (CDT)


As others have said, unless it includes DRM free lossless files, I have zero interest in any of this hooha. The lack of digital “liner notes” are not what’s keeping those of us who keep on buying physical albums away from download sales. Rather, it’s a combination of factors, of which packaging is only a small component and full (or often higher cost) for one size fits all lossy files is, at least for me, the major component.

Today, if I buy a CD, rip it to FLAC, and archive it, I know that, at least so far as two speaker playback goes, I will be able listen to that music on any conceivable music player for the rest of my life at any quality level I choose up to bit for bit lossless of the original commercial music. No lossy format includes that same guarantee.

The problem seems more a disconnect between traditional/real music fans who continue to buy whole albums, just not as downloads (in spite of perception of some posters, whole album sales make up the majority of music sales) and a new generation of casual music consumers who, in spite of an ability to parrot the meme of the filler album with a few good singles to sell, clearly aren’t listening to albums in any manner. The current album fan might embrace albums sold in genuinely archivable quality (sell them with perfect cue sheets and they can even make bit for bit identical CDs to listen to in the car and on the stereo deck for $0.10), the real issue is how to appeal to these “McDonald’s Music Consumers” who have no appreciation of buying an album in the first place since they’ve been picking and choosing the “cream” and throwing the rest out for their whole lives. It’s not so much a question of the quality of the albums (there’s plenty of good albums out there), it’s more a question of the quality of the music fans, and I doubt cocktail or CMX are going to do much to change that.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on August 12, 2009 at 12:39 PM (CDT)


In my mind, the mistake everyone is making is that they are trying to make digital reminiscent of vinyl.  It’s just not the same with digital music, and I don’t know that it should be.  I’m not going to sit in front of my computer interacting with some digital content while I listen to an album.  I don’t know that I’ve ever looked at ‘extras’ that have been included with some of the full albums I’ve bought on iTunes (pdf files, videos come to mind).  The technology has changed the way we interact with the music, and the rich world of album covers and liner notes reflected a very different listening experience. 

When I listened to a new record back in the day, I usually sat on the floor directly in the spot where the speakers were aimed to create the best sound, and as the music was playing, I digested the album cover and liner notes.  In those days, the album was the only real insight into who the musician(s) was/were, and everything, down to the thank-yous on the liner notes, seemed to convey a deeper meaning.  You could see what other musicians the band was interacting with, make connections across the music industry, get a sense of their personal lives.  Now, they all have their own websites, blogs, twitter accounts, facebook pages…Making that connection to who the musician is, is no longer dependent on the music’s and the music industry’s packaging.

Unless they come up with something really out of the box, I can’t see how this is going to have the affect they are hoping for…

Posted by DomArch on August 12, 2009 at 3:35 PM (CDT)


Back in the day, I had 2000+ vinyl albums. When I played an album it was a ritual. The amount of time it took to complete the process contributed to this mindset. The disc was checked visually. More times as not it was cleaned while on the turntable. Album artwork was looked at. Liner notes read or re-read. The music was listened to more critically. You checked sidemen on a particular cut. Information was remembered attached to the music. The ritual took time and required a certain concentration; a specific attention.

This all started to change with the advent of cassette tapes, higher quality but more moderately priced recorders, and auto makers putting AM-FM-Cassette units in cars. It was the forerunner of the model we live and practice today with digital downloads, choosing and purchasing only the tracks we want to listen to.

Is it a better model? Don’t really know. It works for me. I’ve been consciously listening to music since I was four. That’s 56 years ago. I have 24,000 individual songs in my iTunes Library. I have instant access. I can burn disks as I choose. I can let ‘Genius” prepare great playlists for me. Do I want to return to ‘the Ritual’? Don’t think so.

I have purchased ‘enhanced’ digital albums from the iTunes Store (Springsteen, Coldplay, etc.) but the extras only add about 2% to the value of the music to my thinking. I haven’t been buying much music from iTunes in the past couple of years because of the low bit rate and the DRM. I do buy the occasional album from Amazon, especially their $1, $2, and $3 specials. I’ve tried eMusic a couple of times, but having to buy a certain number of tracks in a month or lose the money reminds me too much of work.

Lastly. If for some reason I do want that ‘album’ experience I will buy specially packaged recordings. I just received the ‘40 Years’ Woodstock package. As I loaded the music into my computer, I looked at the album artwork. I read the book of liner notes. And I listened to the music. It’s all good as the youngsters say.

Peace and love.

Posted by mrkwst22 on August 15, 2009 at 8:52 PM (CDT)

If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
iLounge Weekly

Recent News

Recent Reviews

Recent Articles

Sign up for the iLounge Weekly Newsletter

iLounge is an independent resource for all things iPod, iPhone, iPad, and beyond.
iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple TV, Mac, and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc.
iLounge is © 2001 - 2019 iLounge, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy