Apple throws weight behind music cartel’s efforts to prop up faltering album format

“Apple Inc. is throwing its weight behind the music industry’s efforts to protect the album format by allowing fans to buy complete digital albums without having to pay again for songs they already own,” Yinka Adegoke reports for Reuters.

Adegoke reports, “The record industry is keen to maintain the profitable album format, which is under threat as users of Web-based music download stores, such as Apple’s iTunes and Napster Inc., prefer to buy individual songs rather than whole albums.”

“Apple said on Thursday iTunes is introducing a ‘Complete My Album’ service that offers customers who want to turn individual tracks into an album a 99-cent credit for every song they have already purchased from the album,” Adegoke reports.

“The new service comes as the music industry is under pressure to find new ways to boost profits, as sales of digital songs have so far failed to come close to replacing the downturn in revenue from CD sales,” Adegoke reports. “According to Nielsen SoundScan, U.S. album sales in both physical and digital formats fell 10 percent in the first quarter of 2007 compared to the same period a year ago.”

Adegoke reports, “At eMusic, the No. 2 digital music store, the company said it has been offering a similar service since launch and that over 60 percent of all its downloads were full-length albums. ‘The premise that the album is dead is only true among the youth segment, which is really the iTunes customer,’ eMusic Chief Executive David Pakman said. eMusic currently does not carry music from the major labels and said it serves a mainly older customer base than iTunes.”

“The major record companies will open separate talks with Apple over the summer and will try to improve the terms of their respective relationships,” Adegoke reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The album is an artificial construct developed by the music cartels to get more of your money for less effort. The album is – plain and simple – a bundling technique. Take some marketable material, add a greater percentage of filler, call it an “album,” pretend it’s “art,” and charge more than you could charge for just the worthwhile bits. While some small percentage of artists throughout the history of the album construct have taken the concept to an art form and more than few music customers have bought so fully into the marketing construct as to defend it passionately today, that does not change the fact that the “album” is a product bundle designed to collect more money for the good stuff by bundling it with a greater percentage of filler.

Cavemen did not sit around the fire singing “albums,” they sang songs. When the music industry began, they sold single songs. The “album” is a marketing tool. Is it “art” that an “album” is between 30-60 minutes? No, that length is based on nothing more than how much the recording mediums could hold at the time the “album” began to be marketed.

It’s nice that Apple is offering to take into account money spent on singles for those that later wish to purchase the “album” in which they were bundled, but the basic fact remains: iTunes Store’s ‘Complete My Album’ “service” is advertising masquerading as a feature designed to placate the music cartel’s abject horror that their “album” construct is disintegrating before their eyes. Disintegrating back to music’s natural form: the song; as it has been for hundreds of thousands of years before the marketeers began pushing the “album” construct. The music cartel’s know that you already bought the songs you liked and now, with Apple’s help, they want you buy the whole “album,” whether you really like or want the other songs or not – as usual. (Oh, how the music cartel misses the efficacy with which $15 CDs containing one or two good songs bought them mansions, cars, and boats while keeping their noses powdered.)

Related articles:
Apple debuts new iTunes Store ‘Complete My Album’ service (advertising masquerading as a feature) – March 29, 2007
Apple plans iTunes credit for purchased singles if customers later buy album – March 26, 2007
WSJ: Music sales take sharp plunge – March 21, 2007


  1. Some of those old cavemen songs were really excellent. I particularly liked “Ugga Ugga Arrrrrr”, although I sometimes I prefer the subtle overtones of “GUH oo Ahhhh”. The later ones, where they began to employ two different notes, were rather interesting too.

  2. MDM may have missed on this one. May good performers have enough good material to fill up an hour of music. The single song is sometimes an introduction to full album of good music.

    A very hot album these days is Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Almost every song is really good in its own right. Only a few get “air time” and would initially be known to a consumer.

    Even if this crediting for songs already owned when an album is purchased never amounts to much new business, it is the “right thing to do.” There is a basic fairness about it.

  3. This was a smart move by Apple, and will only benefit those consumers (admittedly, few) who wish to purchase an entire album. Probably 2% of my purchases are “albums,” and for those few, this is a nice thing. Just because the music industry might like something doesn’t ALWAYS make it a bad thing (just usually!).
    MW: “french”–I like them about as much as I like the music industry (french food and wines, on the other hand, are a different story)

  4. I am so all for this. I do not see an album as some artificial construct created by the RIAA to maximize profits, but rather an opportunity for an artist to tell a complete story. You never saw Mozart release just a single movement from a symphony…the symphony was meant to be listened to as a whole. Granted, lots of albums out there don’t really attempt to tell a whole story (which is a pity), but lots of them do. I see that more as a failing of artists rather than the greed record labels.

    But no matter–the way iTunes is set up, consumers get to have it both ways: those people who want to listen to a complete album can do that, and people who just want to buy singles can do that. Everybody’s happy!

  5. No, MDN, the album was created by the technology of the day and has carried over to now.
    With the eventual passing of the CD, the album FORMAT will too pass.
    Just as CDs got rid of the “Side A, Side B” paradigm, so will digital downloads likely kill the traditional “album” format.

  6. you have no idea what you’re talking about on this one MDN. Albums ARE an artform NOT a marketing ploy.

    If you really believe that, then maybe you should change your taste in music.

    The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. You can listen to “Bullet The Blue Sky” but it’s better when surrounded by the rest of The Joshua Tree. These are the songs that are supposed to be heard WITH “Bullet The Blue Sky”. The songs together define an era of U2.

    Bottom line: different strokes for different folks. Good move by Apple to let the consumer decide.

  7. It’s a great idea. The vast majority of my iTunes downloads are the weekly “freebies”, and this is a reminder that each of those artists might truly be more than “one hit wonders”.

  8. MDN, you’re way off base on this one. Like, John-C-Dvorak-trolling-for-hits wrong.

    The record companies may be an evil cartel whose greed has beaten listeners into submission and drained music of artistic merit, but you can’t spin the new iTunes feature as a mere trope to that cartel.

    First, all Apple is not taking choices away from customers, but adding a choice. Not every customer wants that choice, but some will, and for that Apple should be applauded. Never say no to a discount!

    Second, it’s possible that online album sales are so low partly because people don’t want to pay twice for the lead single they bought before the album was release.

    Don’t criticize Apple for offering more choices and discounts to customers–that’s downright Orwellian!

  9. Top-40 songs are another ploy to sell albums. For years, I always believed the best songs (which fit to my taste) were well buried in the albums. Thanks to underground radio in the past and iTunes today, I can spend my leisure time searching for them.

  10. Cavemen did not sit around the fire singing “albums,” they sang songs.

    Really? I believe some of the earlier “songs” we have are in sets, for example epic poems consistings of a series of traditional ballads, ancient tragedy, etc.

    When the music industry began, they sold single songs.

    Not necessarilly. Some of the first recordings are from opera (multiple song sets).

    The album is an artificial construct developed by the music cartels to get more for less.

    Well, artists DO write multiple songs on a common theme, looser or tighter. From “Sergent Pepper’s” to “Operation Mindcrime”.

    Also, albums are a necessity in classical music and/or jazz where a complete work consists of several musical parts (songs, movements, etc). Not all music is Avril Lavigne.

  11. There are several partial albums I downloaded some time ago, now the previously missing songs have magically appeared. I do not think I shall be buying them though. What bugs me most is the songs marked “Album only”, especially with classical music. They make one movement from a work “Album only” or the equally bad “Work only” so you have to purchase the whole thing.

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