Music labels try iPad apps to move music bundles (albums)

“Artists and record labels [are rushing] to develop iPad applications that revive and expand the idea of the traditional album and, they hope, entice fans to buy more than just a track or two,” Ben Sisario reports for The New York Times.

“The Universal Music Group has teamed up with a video company, Eagle Rock Entertainment, to create iPad versions of films about classic albums like Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ with social networking features that allow fan commentary,” Sisario reports. “This month, Bjork announced that her next project, ‘Biophilia,’ will encompass ‘music, apps, Internet, installations and live shows.’ Last week, EMI released an iPad version of “Until One,” the new album by the dance group Swedish House Mafia. In addition to the album, the $9.99 package comes with documentary video scenes, a large photo gallery and reminiscences written by the band, all arranged like a coffee table book.”

Sisario reports, “For now, these projects are fluid, with no rules and a lot of room for experimentation. But the Swedish House Mafia app, and others like it, have another aim: preserving the value of complete albums, still the recording industry’s biggest profit engine. By offering a richer package, the labels believe, fans will be more likely to plunk down the money for a full album instead of just buying a few songs. Two years ago, Apple tried something similar with iTunes LP, which added digital liner notes like expanded artwork and lyrics, usually for a few dollars more than the basic music album. Apple does not break down sales information about its formats, but music executives say that iTunes LP has largely failed to catch on.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The way the music industry clings to their artificial, anti-consumer-choice bundles makes us think they’d be far happier working for a cable television company.

If the music industry would just focus on making good music instead of repeatedly trying to revive dead ideas of the past that are not coming back, they’d be in much better shape all around. Wasting time, money, and energy trying to recreate and sell bundles within a single track paradigm is foolish. We know you really, really, really loved the free money, but it’s gone forever. Thanks to Apple, music consumers now have choice. Successful music labels and artists will concentrate simply on making good songs; the era of wildly overpriced bundles etched on shiny plastic discs is long over. You want your Ferrari? Earn it this time.

iTunes LP: If even Apple can’t sell it, it’s safe to say that people don’t want it.

Again, if you want to buy an “album” app, go for it; as long as the exact same single tracks are available a la carte, we have no problem with it. As always, any “new” medium (“new” in quotes because these apps sound pretty much like warmed-over CD-ROMs repackaged under another name) in the hands of real artists (few and far between), the possibility for real art always exists.

Related articles:
Album sales again hit record lows as sales of digital download sales continue to increase – August 27, 2010
Music labels forced anemic-selling ‘iTunes LP’ concept on Apple in exchange for DRM-free tracks – March 9, 2010
iTunes Store music pricing changes raises record labels hopes for new ‘bundling’ strategy – January 14, 2009
Former Pink Floyd manager slams Apple’s iTunes Store for ‘debundling the album’ – November 19, 2008
Third Eye Blind vocalist: Albums are an arbitrary concept; unnecessary in digital age – October 21, 2008
Warner kills Estelle by pulling songs from Apple’s iTunes Store in attempt to force album sales – September 2, 2008
Music cartels pull select singles from iTunes Store in attempt to force ‘album’ bundle sales again – August 28, 2008
Jermaine Dupri: We made iTunes, not Apple; no more singles, buy albums or we’ll take them away! – November 27, 2007
Music cartels pull select singles from iTunes Store in attempt to force ‘album’ bundle sales again – August 28, 2008
Apple throws weight behind music cartel’s efforts to prop up faltering album format – March 29, 2007

25 Comments

  1. I think that with the ability to somehow get the individual tracks outside of the app (so I can sync them with the rest of my itunes library) this would be a great idea.

  2. The MDN take this time is a little odd: “If the music industry focused on making good music instead of repeatedly trying to revive dead ideas of the past that are not coming back, they’d be in much better shape all around.”

    Whether or not music is “good” is a matter if taste, not marketing. For every Lady Gaga or similar act that I personally hate, there are thousands, if not millions, who think it’s “good”. The styles of music being released today is the smallest problem with the music biz.

    1. Of course, “good” is in the eye of the beholder. Music execs and artists can and will continue to target profitable market segments as always.

      We’re simply saying that the music industry should be focusing on singles now and not wasting time trying to revive bundling. Bundling is dead and it isn’t coming back, no matter how hard they wish.

      1. Actually, I have purchased a number of albums after buying a couple of singles. The ability of iTunes to track which items I buy, and let me complete my album with out having to buy the song again is really great.

        But MDN is totally right in that the free ride the music industry big wigs have taken in the past is over. Value is now required for the money.

        Just a thought,
        en

      2. Your points are of course valid. The problem lies therein, that “the single” or “the hit” that is released is 80% of the time not even the best song on the album, which is partly the reason why, from a marketing and sales point of view, it makes sense to push albums. Not every song is capable of being a hit, which is why singles are released in the first place. Back in the day it was not financially possible to release every song on an album as a single; that kind of choice never really existed until the advent of iTunes.

        My point is that there has NEVER in the history of recorded music been an album released where every single song was good (again, “good” is a matter of taste, not fact), so to make such a statement totally misses the point of how albums and singles actually work.

        1. My point is that there has NEVER in the history of recorded music been an album released where every single song was good

          Beatles and Pink Floyd fans would like to have a word with you.

          ——RM

    2. I don’t care who might think what is good, there is music that is well made and then there are shyte sandwiches like Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. This is not music intended to be ‘good’ by any stretch of the imagination. There is an huge difference between an artist that wants to create quality work and nurture their sound and connect with their fans and make music that will resonate and last, and your average employee if the Tune Mill.

  3. I too have suffered decades of the tyrannies of industries, like cable and the broadcast and music industries, but focusing on albums is a bit disingenuous, or perhaps misguided. Any artist, and especially musicians will tell you that it’s important to them for the audience to experience the gamut of their expression. It’s sad that this has been tied to extorting profit from the patrons, . . . but think what a vast wasteland our culture would be if only the “big hits” were available to us.

    1. I agree. The “album” has value for an artiist to explore, and to share those explorations with their fans. Many of the favorite songs in my life’s soundtrack are album cuts never played on radio. The problem for me is the sense of “value”.

      Back in the day, a “single” was actually two songs: an A & B side of a 45 rpm vinyl record. It cost about a buck. The album that contained those songs cost about $4. Plus, it came with great art, liner notes, and often all lyrics to the songs. It was a joyous immersion. Now an albums are stripped down bundle, as MDN, calls them. No soul, no increased value over independently purchased singles.

      1. The great thing about those singles is that you often got a non-album track on the B side, thereby adding some value.

        If artists want to add value to albums to make them more enticing, THEN THAT’S WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING YEARS AGO. But I’m all for it if that’s what they want.

        Personally I’d love it if there were any albums out there worth buying. I mean a real album that stands as a complete work. they’re still out there, but they’re a rarity these days.

  4. Why don’t they just find artists that are good enough to put together an entire album WORTH listening to? When they gave up AOR to Hit Singles they cut their own throat and they deserved it.

  5. I personally believe the apps are a great idea, and the complete my album feature had lead to many purchases from my account. I love iTunes LP, but not every cd has it… And it’s doesn’t work on my iOS device, which is a huge bummer for me.

    As long as the apps include the ability to download the tracks from iTunes, then I’m down. But if I can’t play these tunes on the road as well, I won’t be buying them.

  6. I’m all for choice and I buy a ton of individual tracks, but a lot of may favorites are not “hits”. In fact, I’m pretty sure some these B side type tracks probably were intended to fill out the album. I would probably have never heard them if not bundled by the producer/music cartel.
    Just saying.

    1. I agree – when CDs came out the price went up significantly compared to LPs. The cartels really gouged the consumer on that ubt at the same time opened a padora’s box because the music could be ripped.
      I used to buy albums but like everyone else realized that in most cases the rest of the songs on the album were crap.

  7. Anyone with imagination can see how this might be the “Next Big Thing” in music distribution.
    First: many so-called music acts are much better at selling their bodies and personalities and this gives them a chance to expand what an album brings.
    Second, for real music this can offer a chance to and expanded version of the music: we might get studio and live tracks on the same album. The options are limitless!
    AND it might be a way of getting more control back into the hands of the artists.
    No, all packages won’t be “brilliant,” but there is potential.

  8. This is wonderful. Steve Jobs makes it easy to (finally) purchase individual tracks at a reasonable price instead of a full-album, and the MDN take is that the concept of an album is officially dead and that artists shouldn’t even bother recording a series of songs that are meant to be heard as a cohesive whole because that no longer fits into the new paradigm.

    I have favorite bands that every couple years release a new ALBUM… and since my music taste is finely honed there is rarely a song on the album that I wish I didn’t have in my collection.

    Often times I WANT an album, a whole album. The only people that can’t understand this, are the people who just listen to whatever crap is spoon-fed to them by the industry. They probably think Lady Gaga is literally the only “artist” today who has access to a recording studio.

    Expand your horizons people. Real artists still make real albums. Don’t dismiss their craft out of hand out of ignorance.

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