What is the New Album?

Between the new Apple project Cocktail and a effort from the major labels called CMX, it looks like there’s going to be at least a couple of new ways to experience music on your computer and your portable media device. Toss in bands and artists developing their own apps for smartphones, and you’ve got all kinds of options for customizing the way musicians can interact with their audience.

That said, there are some requirements that, although I doubt these will come to be, should be present in any new album format.

  1. Interoperability – no matter what computer, device, or media player the consumer chooses to use, the new format should function without issue. I’m not saying that it has to work the same way on all devices. Obviously, a small player with no video screen shouldn’t be expected to show liner notes and the like. But it should still be able to play the audio.
  2. Lack of DRM – part of interoperability means that it has to play on everything without running into problems with digital rights management. Amazon, eMusic and iTunes have all dropped it, so don’t try to sneak it back in now.
  3. Lack of gimmicks – if we learned anything from enhanced CDs, it’s that cheesy games tossed in as an afterthought don’t make an album package special. Take some time and put the care and effort into these features that they deserve.

There’s more to do with albums than string together a bunch of electronic documents in addition to audio files, but I don’t want to have to buy a new player or computer every time a format changes. I’m intrigued by the possibilities, but don’t make it difficult to adopt. The music industry doesn’t need to make itself any more difficult right now.

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