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Music Labels Working On Digital Album Format

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-bet-it-wont-be-open dept.

Music 250

Nerdfest writes to mention that just weeks after Apple announced their new "Cocktail" digital album project, the four big record companies are moving forward with their own project dubbed "CMX." The new digital album will feature songs, lyrics, videos, liner notes, and artwork. "However, this may be of little interest if CMX isn't compatible with iTunes, the default music software for iPods, iPhones and Apple computers. Whereas labels are eager to resuscitate the album format in an age of singles, Apple is concerned with selling hardware, including a tablet computer rumored to be launching this fall. The major labels plan to launch CMX, which is just a working title for the format, in November. It will reportedly be 'soft-launched' with a few select releases."

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frist prost!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017287)

alsjalgd!!!

The problem with this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017417)

Is that I can't use it on Linux. Also, i just installed Linux for the first time and I can't print to my HP printer. Help slashdotters!!!

Re:The problem with this (0, Redundant)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018639)

man man

And another failure... (4, Insightful)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017315)

Their business model is dying, and again they're trying to come up with ways to corner a market they've already lost, with a format that will fail.

From a group that said... (5, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017795)

Coming from the group that just recently announced their paying customers should not expected DRM encumbered music already paid for to work indefinitely, their follow up announcement of yet another new format surely isn't inspiring any confidence.

Re:And another failure... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018177)

Can we put this myth to bed? Their business model didn't fail it was wildly successful for nearly a 100 years. The model didn't fail people simple used technology to get around paying. There's a massive difference.

Re:And another failure... (4, Insightful)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018253)

If piracy were the problem, they wouldn't be actively trying to move back to album sales now would they? People can pirate whole albums just as easily as they can single songs, so what makes you think this isn't about their failed business model of selling a CD 80% full of crap to people who wanted one mediocre, dynamically compressed one-hit wonder? Technology allowed people to avoid THAT SHIT, not paying in general.

Re:And another failure... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018297)

Actually, it's failing.

They make their money off of recording and distribution. It used to cost lots of cash to make a decent recording- which is what allowed them to be the "gatekeepers" for Pop Culture.

Unfortunately for them, the recording equivalent of the Gutenberg Press has come along and they can't make the cash the once could. Nor can they just jam stuff down people's throats. Sure, people figured out how "to get around paying"- but a good portion of the people out there aren't buying or listening. They listen to people that have absolutely NOTHING to do with those businesses trying to make themselves relevant via "digital albums". If they can somehow remember what put them in the role and work within what has now come to pass for them and everyone else, they might keep their model going a while longer.

I honestly don't think they will manage it.

Re:And another failure... (1)

dem0n1 (1170795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018829)

the recording equivalent of the Gutenberg Press .

Gutenberg Press hell, it's an ABDick offset with a photocopier platemaker.

Re:And another failure... (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018517)

Get around paying?

Check out Apple's earnings from iTunes some time.

People are choosing to buy the tunes they like, (and occasionally the Albums they like), but not the usual trash foisted on them to fill the album.

Music sales are doing well.

Paying 15 bucks for 2 good songs and 9 garbage songs is what is failing.

The DRM issue is is a serious one, just as the GP mentioned. The ability to repossess your music purchases at any time in the future is theft, pure and simple.

Buggy whips were doing well for a hundred years too.

Re:And another failure... (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018291)

From RIAA's Perspective: If it doesn't have DRM, what's the point?
From the Consumer's Perspective: If it has DRM, what's the point?

"Forget WAV, MP3 and M4A - major labels have something new in mind, and it's called CMX."
As a side note, TFA seems to be confused between codecs and containers.

It's delicious DRM (3, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017321)

You must eat it.

(If, by any chance, this format is not DRM'ed and patented to Hell and back, count me impressed).

Re:It's delicious DRM (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017603)

I'd like it if the format was public domain, but the audio file it contains can be anything and will work on players already.

Naw, I'm dreaming. That could never happen.

cant wait... (1)

Mr_Reaper (231387) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017329)

to see what kind of drm scheme they come up with...

Re:cant wait... (3, Funny)

corychristison (951993) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017617)

I've got a feeling it will all be Compressed Win32 Binaries.

Because _nothing_ can go wrong with that... right?

Re:cant wait... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017813)

I'm putting my bet on an Adobe AIR type effort. They have developed a DRM thing for BBC iPlayer, and it works on Windows and Macs.

However, if it is to be successful, it will need to work on portable media players as well, and that means either mp3 which will work anywhere, aac (for ipods), or wma (for playsforsure media players). I'm guessing aac has been ruled out.

Re:cant wait... (1)

dem0n1 (1170795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018863)

The album as an app. Don't try to play it out of order; someone worked real hard to get the flow just right. :^)

mp3 does this already (3, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017337)

I spend some time removing art and crap like that from mp3s so they don't waste space on my iPod - why re-invent the wheel?

Re:mp3 does this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017815)

mp3 only has ID3 tags doesn't it? Aren't you thinking of M4A?

Re:mp3 does this already (4, Informative)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018047)

id3v2 adds support for a lot of stuff, including embeded artwork

Re:mp3 does this already (4, Insightful)

Tyr_7BE (461429) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017817)

Funny, that. Whenever I rip a CD to MP3 I spend some time *adding* art and crap like that (genre, year, etc...) so it feels more like an album than just a file. Everyone sees the world through different eyes I suppose.

But yes you're right, I've been getting by with MP3 just fine for quite some time now. For those who *really* want to go all out and get the liner notes, lyrics, front and back cover artwork, etc, a collection of properly named jpegs and a music player that knows what it's doing will fill that need nicely. However, a new dominant format ensures that you will yet again have to purchase the White Album, which translates to money in the pockets of the recording companies. Is it any wonder they have their best eggheads on the job?

Re:mp3 does this already (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018139)

Artist, album, track name. Done. A new format means it won't work on my iPod.

Re:mp3 does this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017869)

you're running out of space? LMAO

Re:mp3 does this already (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018469)

exactly. fucken loser w/ out of date ipod...

Open formats (2, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017355)

Here's hoping that any format battle leads to an open format. We don't need another format that must be licensed or a fragmented market. There's no word in the article about whether or not either format supports or requires DRM.

Re:Open formats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017409)

It will certainly support DRM, as the record companies making the format will certainly want DRM. It will not probably not require DRM, since expanding a DRM-compatible format to also support non-DRM music is easy.

The issue is: will it be compatible with Ipods?

If it isn't it will definitely fail.

If it is, that means that, although the format will support DRM, most of the music released in that format will be DRM-free. Or, it could mean that they will release the DRM specs to Apple, and Apple will release firmware updates for all Ipods and new Itunes software to support the format. The latter will be very difficult for the record companies, since it will require massively persuading Apple.

Re:Open formats (1)

alen (225700) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017571)

I read about this two weeks ago. This idea was originally made up by the record companies and pitched to apple. The record companies didn't like apple's walled garden approach and didn't want to lose control like they did with iTunes so they have their own open format to compete with apple.

Re:Open formats (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017753)

I'm not a fan of Apple's walled garden approach either. If it's open, perhaps Amazon and others will adopt it. As long as it's not used to push DRM, it's not a bad idea.

Just a new complication. (1)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017359)

This format won't add anything new to the software world, it's just a new complication. There's absolutely nothing new or exciting about this format, we can get the same effect with folders and multiple files -- or just cramming a few files together and splitting them apart when needed. This is just a pathetic attempt to keep control over people's software -- if it's their format, they can dictate what people can do with it. They might as well advertise this as "new exciting ways to force you to use our software how we decide."

Re:Just a new complication. (3, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017655)

This format won't add anything new to the software world, it's just a new complication. There's absolutely nothing new or exciting about this format, we can get the same effect with folders and multiple files -- or just cramming a few files together and splitting them apart when needed.

While I agree in principle with what you say, it's actually much easier than that. My crappy Winamp will auto-tag songs based on a lossy hash, grab the album cover art from some mysterious server, and display some sort of music website with the latest news about the artist, etc. You can install a free plugin that downloads the lyrics to the song, if you want, or you could get off your lazy ass and just Google it.

What these people don't seem to understand about albums is that they were a very physical thing (yes, past tense). You touched it on the shelf at the record store, turned it over to see if you knew any of the songs, then had a little (or big for vinyl) booklet to browse too.

When you put the album in your music playing device, you made a conscious decision to listen to at least a few songs from it. Nobody switched out albums like crazy playing one song after the other. Any sort of "digital album" will necessarily have that functionality, negating the whole album concept. Those who would listen to all the songs would just buy them individually, and those who would not won't.

Unless, they intend on killing the single by forcing albums down our throat. Helllooo, bittorrent...

Compatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017361)

the subject says it all, unless its a cd/dvd hybrid I don't think they will get the market, too many digital formats to deal with for multimedia, not to mention a DRM nightmare for the consumer if they decide to go that route.

A few predictions (5, Insightful)

Techmeology (1426095) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017391)

1) CMX will be used to facilitate DRM
2) CMX will be used to facilitate unwanted bundling (i.e. without offering singles)
3) CMX will be patent riddled
4) CMX will be designed to exclude FOSS

Re:A few predictions (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017723)

1..n) Numerous ways how CMX will used to annoy the consumer unnecessarily.
n+1) CMX will be a failure.
n+2) Years later, labels realize that CMX is a failure.
n+ever) Labels get why it is so and correct their behavior.

Re:A few predictions (2, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018775)

You forgot:
n+3) years: RIAA blames piracy for the failure of CMX and contributes heavily to politicians for new laws.

.

Re:A few predictions (5, Insightful)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017739)

My Guess:
CMX will require using specific Windows software (5 years later a Mac version will be released), and will require a mandatory 30+ second anti-piracy video before you can play a song.

Perhaps I am wrong. I mean I would not mind a file format that allowed album artwork, lyrics, and liner notes to be stored in a standardized way along with all the songs of a single album, as long as individual songs can still be extracted.

But why bother? The iTunes extentions to the aac format allow album art, all the information from liner notes, lyrics (although not synchronized lyrics AFAIK), and more to be embeded in a song. Heck, it even supports synchronized images to be muxed in along with the audio, and chapter marks to be inserted.

So I see no advantage to such a system over a zip file of all the songs of the album in AAC format, unless the whole purpose is to make albums into a branded experience.

My guess is that the format is really just a way to bundle the autoplay executable, and other "extended extras" found on the data track of modern audio CDs.

Re:A few predictions (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017985)

Unfortunately, to a music industry exec, your post looks something like this:

"Blah, blah, geeky whinging, blah blah, yada yada Mandatory 30+ Second Anti-Piracy Video kids these days.... iTunes... foo blah, etc Album.

Branded Experience!

Blah, blah, mumble, blah. foo winge"

They'll definitely fuck this one up.

Re:A few predictions (1)

pinkishpunk (1461107) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018027)

Will probabily be a Windows application, self hosting it all, with the options to export a drm infected 128kbit wma files for the mobile units, that way they can try and secure the audio data inside the applican, with the same success as the software industry has had with games and copy protection all this years.

Re:A few more predictions (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018183)

CMX will:

- require an "evil bit permanently on" secure audio path to the secure cranial speaker implants, available only under Windows 7 SP19 or later;

- use a new lossy audio coding technique developed with the express purpose of producing an ear-splitting 6 kHz square wave tone and sounding as hideous as possible when transcoded to another format (still, some tin-eared audiofools will still say they can't hear the difference);

- require that the playback device be permanently on-line with RIAA servers via rootkit for user biometrics validation every 20 msec and reporting of usage statistics

- only be available as super-compressed re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-remasters with 4 dB dynamic range;

- cost a minimum of $14.99/track/minute;

- sound like shit;

- be nothing but a bad memory by 2012...

Re:A few predictions (1, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018189)

But why bother? The iTunes extentions to the aac format allow album art, all the information from liner notes, lyrics (although not synchronized lyrics AFAIK), and more to be embeded in a song. Heck, it even supports synchronized images to be muxed in along with the audio, and chapter marks to be inserted.

AAC isn't open, and neither is iTunes. Not everyone has, or even wants an iPod. Amazingly, if the labels make this an open format, it will be a significant improvement. Of course, the odds are against it.

Re:A few predictions (4, Informative)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018593)

AAC [wikipedia.org] is an open standard not owned by Apple.

You are likely thinking of "Fairplay", which is Apple's DRM scheme, and which was discontinued.

Re:A few predictions (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018691)

But we was right in so far that Apple's extensions to AAC which are heavily used by iTunes for the features I described are not an open standard. As far as I can tell, this is only because they have not bothered to document these extensions in an appropriate format, and currently don't plan to do so since there is no demand for that. If Microsoft or some other vendor started pestering them, I suspect they would document the extensions.

Re:A few predictions (1)

LeperPuppet (1591409) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017947)

Further predictions of stupidity and almost inevitable failure:
  • CMX will be a clusterfuck of a standard which is only accessibly by buggy, security-hole ridden software that Sony would be proud of. The DRM will likely be broken shortly before/after release and extracted audio files will be leaked to most p2p networks. The DMCA hammer will be clumsily used to deal with such problems.
  • The labels will attempt to strong-arm Apple into supporting their format. Should Apple refuse, they'll threaten to pull some or all of their catalogue and go it alone. They could even make a leap of trying to organise Zune exclusivity with Microsoft. Such an act will ultimately hurt them more than it would Apple, unless most of the portable media player market discards their current players for new Zunes.
  • After many years the format will have gone nowhere, despite the labels spending millions on pushing it. Those who were foolish enough to actually buy into it will lose access to their music when the labels shut down the authentication servers.
  • Several years later the labels will again come up with a crazy scheme to retake control of their digital sales, which will repeat most of their previous mistakes and also fail.

Prediction (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018713)

This time next year, CMX will be entirely dead.

More for your money. (4, Interesting)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017403)

While doubtful, I want to know if the people in charge of this product are going to give us the "what the consumer wants" that WE want, what they THINK we want or SOS with a higher price tag. At some point these executives need to catch on that they're middle men and have a shrinking role in the game unless they work on increasing their assets rather than controls.

Re:More for your money. (1)

youngone (975102) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017547)

I think the answer to your question is quite obvious, (although its a fair question to ask). Of course not. The entertainment cartel are not interested in what their customers want, I don't really think the music business really knows much about their customers either. This will be doomed to failure due to price or DRM or a lack of interoperability, or a combination of the above. It does however give the entertainment cartel another chace to complain to various law makers about how piracy is killing their business, and get some more restrictive laws passed.

Re:More for your money. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017639)

Companies like Disney may not understand what music buyers in general are interested in, but they have their hands so far up their customers asses I don't even want to think about it. They just manufacture a new pop star every 3 or 4 years. It is quite impressive.

Re:More for your money. (1)

Recovery1 (217499) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018875)

It's easy to manufacture a new young pop star to pre teen and teen groups. The collective intelligence of such groups is usually in the negative digits so they are extremely susceptible to marketing. You could sell pet rocks to this group if you market it correctly and glitter them up... Hey that's not a bad idea. A return of the pet rock is about due. Let me just get some venture capital in place...

Really?!?! (3, Funny)

Spewns (1599743) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017501)

"songs, lyrics, videos, liner notes, and artwork". Brilliant! Although I think I found a better technology for this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_(file_format) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Really?!?! (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017855)

I was going with zipped file, but yeah, that.

let them go for it (3, Insightful)

hype7 (239530) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017507)

it won't really matter. if there's one thing the labels can be relied upon to do, it's to provide something that people don't want.

Re:let them go for it (1)

roesti (531884) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018331)

if there's one thing the labels can be relied upon to do, it's to provide something that people don't want.

But enough about today's pop music - let's talk about a new digital album format.

My digital album format (5, Funny)

RDW (41497) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017509)

Sounds like both Apple and the Major Labels are infringing on my patented Digital Album Format. The working project title is 'Directory', but it looks like I'll now need a TLA to compete with Big Media - 'DIR'? DIR can hold any reasonable number of 'tracks', or even multiple albums and movies, each of which is 'tagged' with all the relevant data and album artwork, and all of which are already compatible with iTunes! Recently I've also implemented 'a brand new look, with a launch page and all the different options.' Like CMX, 'When you click on it you're not just going to get the 10 tracks, you're going to get the artwork, the video and mobile products'. Obviously I can't give away too many details at this point, but I can tell you that I'm thinking of calling the DIR launch page 'index.html'.

Re:My digital album format (5, Funny)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017611)

Your technology sounds extremely promising, but how do you plan to keep track of multiple DIR files? I've invented a technology that we're calling "Folder" around the office. With it, we can create complex trees of digitally organized music, video, and even ebooks. The major advantage here is that you can use "Folder" to create repositories for all your digital media ranging in specificity from artists down to albums. You can even launch the media directly from your "Folder" viewer with two clicks! We expect the major bugs to be worked out fairly soon, and you might see "Folder" on your computer in the first quarter 2010.

Re:My digital album format (5, Funny)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017785)

I like your idea for the technology you call "Folder". Mind if i expand on that an create what I'll call a "Library"? This "Library" will be a user-defined collection on files portraying the data independent of your "Folder" tree. the User will be able to group and flatten the tree however they desire by aggregating multiple physical locations into a single view. If you can get your "Folder" technology together in time I'd like to go for an official release in late October 2009 for my "Library" technology.

Re:My digital album format (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017757)

Sounds like both Apple and the Major Labels are infringing on my patented Digital Album Format. The working project title is 'Directory' ...

Ha! But I've already patented `.' and `..' so all of you are infringing.

Re:My digital album format (1)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017789)

Chances are they want to provide things like DVD style menus that work consistently across a range of devices with different display and input capabilities. That's not a terrible idea and it is the sort of thing that you need some sort of standard for beyond "just use HTML".

Re:My digital album format (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017793)

but it looks like I'll now need a TLA to compete with Big Media

Distributed Version Control sounds like an interesting "method and apparatus for distributing Digital Albums". I think the entrenched competition from bittorrent might be difficult to overcome though.

Re:My digital album format (1)

Neoncow (802085) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018465)

Regarding TLAs, the acronym is a euphemism to mask the true intent.

Digital Restrictions Management

No acronyms. When educating people, we need to be clear, concise, and accurate.

Still failing to grasp their audience (5, Insightful)

AdamD1 (221690) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017519)

Several colleagues of mine pointed me to this story and I just have to say: the labels - again - still don't get it, and they apparently never will.

I can understand why some artists create full length works. Few can argue that an album like Pink Floyd's "The Wall" or The Beatles' "Abbey Road" work very well as complete pieces. The reality is: how many current artists are making albums that consistent? I can think of only three that actually make the cut for me: Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta and until lately Nine Inch Nails. With only that last example, their audiences are not earning them in the tens of millions in sales. The only artists which are are the artists which are responsible for this massive audience shift away from album purchases!

Britney Spears is the veritable poster-child for why albums are failing: even if you are a die-hard fan, you really only want two songs, at most perhaps five, from any of her full length albums. That says: you don't want to spend $15 - $20 for a complete CD / $9.99 per digital album download. You prefer to purchase individual tracks. (That and: you'd probably still prefer they cost around $0.49)

On the other hand, if their audience are "classic rock fans", I still don't see the point. If you're a Led Zeppelin fan, you likely already have all the remastered reissues and re-re-re-issues you care to spend any money on in the first place. (And the Beatles re-re-re-re-masters are coming out imminently as well, marking something like the eighth time those have been re-issued of re-packaged in one way or another.)

That well has run dry. Why they don't face this fact is confusing.

I know that individual tracks aren't going away, and I know that digital sales on their own aren't necessarily resulting in booming profits for any of these labels, but my point is: as someone who has been a voracious consumer of music since 1979, I see utterly no legitimate business case for this "new" format, and it baffles me completely that any major label would seriously consider this as the saviour of their industry.

I would have been far more excited to hear that they decided on a $0.40 per single purchase price for new artists - big marketing campaign or not - rather than this ridiculous additional format. That or that they finally decided to give the artists more of a cut of the digital download price, since printing, shipping and manufacturing costs are of course greatly reduced for any digital download format. (Not saying it doesn't still take a creative team to create artwork, but there is no shipping, and no printing involved.)

I've already made a few wagers: I give this two and a half years at best before we see an unsurprising news story claiming that this did not significantly improve any digital music sales for anyone.

What a waste of money already. They still have a full year before they even release the first one.

ad

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017581)

I give this two and a half years at best before we see an unsurprising news story claiming that this did not significantly improve any digital music sales for anyone.

Well it would have, if it weren't for all those god damn pirates!

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (2, Interesting)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017629)

My (favorite band) has always managed to make their best songs not-singles. Usually the singles are the ones I -don't- like off their albums. I'd rather they keep making full albums, especially so when I go to see them live it's not like I paid $60 to listen to the radio.

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (4, Insightful)

mblase (200735) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017713)

Britney Spears is the veritable poster-child for why albums are failing: even if you are a die-hard fan, you really only want two songs, at most perhaps five, from any of her full length albums.

You've got that right, except for the way you seem to be placing blame at Britney Spears' feet.

The greatest "rock albums" out there are almost always wholly written and created by the bands themselves, bands with the creativity and experience necessary to be good songwriters as well as good performers.

But BS is a singer, not a musician. She was created by the music labels as a pretty face and voice to sell albums, and they used a handful of good singles written by other people to sell entire albums of songs.

This is and has been the music labels' modus operandi for decades, because it works and it's more reliable -- it's easier to find a good singer who's hot than a good singer who's hot and can write and play good songs.

Moreover, creating a complete album crafted as a whole is a time-consuming endeavor which should not be pursued by the faint of heart. It's difficult and risky. And since it requires an actual attention span to appreciate, its appeal is likewise much more limited.

The labels have been promoting the singles-based emphasis ever since they first came into existence, because that's how songs used to be recorded. The album is a much more recent invention. Small surprise they're having trouble adapting to it.

In my opinion, the labels would be better off spending time finding ways to make more money with singles than diddling around with online albums.

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (2, Insightful)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017783)

I agree that this is out of touch. It's also out of touch in a revealing way. The execs are seeking to "add back" to the digital album the things they were used to from the physical album. But the new generation of music listeners have no experience with the old album. To them, the band's "art" is their website. The band's videos (from concerts and so on) are either on the website or on youtube.

I do think there's more to the album than the possibility for theme. I think bands work better when work is focused on creating something longer than a single track. I think the stress of limited studio time to create an LP has enabled some bands to do good work. But this doesn't mean that the album of this century will be like the one of last century.

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (1)

youngone (975102) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017977)

This is a terrific post. AdamD1 has thought about this before posting, and then organised his thoughts very well, but he's missing a very clue here. He says he is confused about a couple of decisions the labels have made, which is a fair comment, unless you remember that the people running these businesses are reasonably stupid. The internet has been available as a distribution channels to these dickwads for more than 10 years, and they have either ignored it, tried to litigate against it, bribed politicians to make it go away, or produced some half-arsed attempted to use it. The people who run the music business just don't really know what they're doing. Yes, yes there's been an awful lot of money made over the last 40 years or so, but times have changed, and the big labels have no clue what to do next.

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018011)

Sing it, brother. The last album I bought expecting more than maybe two decent tracks was Meat Loaf: Bat out of Hell, from which every single track was in the top 40 at one time or another. If the RIAA wants me to buy albums, they need to produce albums that aren't 90% festering crop that sucks donkey dick. I've spend more money on music since Amazon started selling DRM-free MP3s than, literally, my entire life before that (which would be 40+ years). And the day I can't buy DRM-free something will be the day I stop buying music again.

Waste of money already (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018405)

Shhhhh. There are many millions to be made selling these idiots the promise of what they want. They're throwing it away. Don't bump the elbow of the entrepeneur who's fleecing them this time.

And wait till they get a look at my painless bulletproof transparent DRM strategy. They'll go bananas for it! It's a vertical solution that brings minute-to-minte control of access to media in a form that people will be thrilled to pay a premium for because the reproduction quality is INCREDIBLE.

Re:Still failing to grasp their audience (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018757)

That says: you don't want to spend $15 - $20 for a complete CD / $9.99 per digital album download. You prefer to purchase individual tracks.

Personally, I've never really felt that way. If an artist can't manage an album that I would enjoy, I can't really see paying for any music from them, even if it is $1 for one song. What does it mean to like an artist, if you think they can only manage a couple of listenable songs every few years?

Maybe it's because I'm so used to listening to complete albums that I just haven't caught up with the way the kids today "consume" their music (get off my lawn, etc; but dammit - I'm not even 30 yet!)

One thing I definitely disagree with, though, is the whole "nobody makes good music anymore" assessment. Even with my (apparently archaic) purchasing strategy, I can still easily find one or two dozen releases per year that I am excited enough about to at least download for "evaluation" (I end up buying probably half of those).

(Having said all that, I really don't care about the various packaging accoutrements: 14 mp3s/oggs (and maybe a jpeg of the cover art) is just fine by me)

Just curious... (3, Funny)

danwesnor (896499) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017565)

... but was the Apple tablet dragged into this article just because Slashdot is the only site not spreading that rumor?

Leaked CMX details! (5, Funny)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017573)

The music track will use the Ogg Vorbis format, included videos using Ogg Theora, liner notes and lyrics being XML formatted with various included XSLT stylesheets for 10 different attractive layouts as chosen by the artists, as opposed to the music label! The CMX sales will be supported by donations and revenue reaped from immense sales of concert tickets, thanks to naked girls performing in the pauses as they serve Ubuntu Cola!

Re:Leaked CMX details! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017919)

+1 Arousing

Re:Leaked CMX details! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018359)

Right.

lol failboat continues (1)

Teriblows (1138203) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017621)

seriously... if they were going to give us more they should do this, make up for their sacd/dvdaudio f*ckups by putting out an open standard drm free high definition audio format and sell tracks that way. then maybe they'd get back some good will, demonstrating they are giving customers more for their money, not just doing things out of pure greed. anyways itunes already has told them exactly what consumers want, they want the good tracks. the "album" is not dead because of lack of a new format, its dead because people would rather not buy the other 7 shit tracks to get 2-3 good songs.

I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017633)

Will CMX [youtube.com] make CMX releases of their albums?

What about CD? (3, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017641)

Isn't the venerable Compact Disc a "digital album format" already? That's why it doesn't degrade with repeated playback, after all.

Maybe they should try MP3? (3, Insightful)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017663)

Just a thought...

Re:Maybe they should try MP3? (2, Informative)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017705)

WAT! But what is the revenue in selling music and trusting your customers!!

Just Keep Making CDs (1)

travisb828 (1002754) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017695)

Believe it or not I still buy CDs. It's nice to "import them into Windows Media Player using the protected WMA file format" and still have a CD on my shelf that give me that old school music library look.

If the whole albuim isn't a 'work' (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017717)

then we don't want the whole album. Sorry, Charlie but welcome to the future.

There's already a digital album format... (2, Funny)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017853)

... it's very popular and easy to use, has an open specification, and allows users to convert easily into formats playable on all popular music players.

The spec is at http://www.aboutthescene.com/images/scenerules_mp3_2007_v2.png [aboutthescene.com] .

This spec sucks (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018851)

... it's very popular and easy to use, has an open specification, and allows users to convert easily into formats playable on all popular music players.

The spec is at http://www.aboutthescene.com/images/scenerules_mp3_2007_v2.png [aboutthescene.com] .

"15. FREE MP3s" worries me. This restriction only serves to prop up works of the major labels at the expense of labels that use Creative Commons -nc licenses.

Don't support the middlemen. (3, Insightful)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017885)

The problem with supporting an effort like this is that 90% of your payment goes to middlemen. Artists need to stop making the deal with the devil for promotion, and increasingly they don't have to. Set up your own online store (not hard) or find an artist friendly aggregated store that gives the vast majority of the income to the artist, charging a small percentage for the service (not more than 20%!)

I believe there is an excellent business model to be had by setting up an artist friendly website. The trick would be to get a few major artists onboard for this effort in the beginning to attract attention. If I had time and VC capital, I'd run of and do this today.

What is needed is a mass abandonment of the ASCAP/BMI regime, so that it will collapse. How much of your 99 cent purchase at the itunes store goes to the artist, when the music is being licensed to the itunes store through traditional record companies? Very little, from what I have read. pennies on the buck. Itunes is part of the problem.

This whole thing has gone on far too long. Artists who are -good- should be able to stand on their own without the help of the major record companies, with all the tools that are available to the artist directly these days.

The record companies are similar to film companies in that they will obfuscate the profit sheets as much as possible to show a loss. That is why most major film talent now negotiates income percentage on the front end gross as opposed to the back end net, in addition to their fixed salary. The net income from any given film is proving increasingly elusive, if you ask the accounting department at the studio.

the one thing that can prove me wrong is if someone can show me that selling your music the traditional way is still more profitable than going it on your own, due to the sheer quantity of sales.

Re:Don't support the middlemen. (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018255)

The thing is, you won't ever get FILTHY RICH without the promotional muscle of the big labels. THAT is the carrot that the labels use to get artists to agree to ridiculous contracts. And almost all of them DO agree to those contracts.

Very few artists are going to be willing to give up the chance to be millionaires. The catch is, of course, that if you don't become a HUGE SUPERSTAR, you aren't going to be a millionaire, and in fact you'll probably end up far worse off than if you signed with a smaller label or simply did self-promotion.

It's greed all-around. Don't pretend that the so-called "artists" are blameless in all of this. They aren't being forced into anything.

Re:Don't support the middlemen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018729)

It's not about getting filthy rich, it's about making a living at all.

You get about 10 pence a song from an iTunes download.

How many songs do you need to sell a day to make a living?

To make £100 a day, that's 1000 sales a day. After a fan buys your music, they don't buy it again. (Obsolete formats ignored.)

So, you have to get about 100 new fans a day.

Even the smaller labels struggle with this.

Re:Don't support the middlemen. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018325)

Where signing with a label is beneficial is concert promotion, getting venues of any appreciable size set up is a specialized skill. And bands get a better chunk of the profits (usually 10% of the gross - actual band expenses like hotels to my understanding).

Though thats plenty doable with a smaller label, which is also going to be more reliable if what you want to be is a working artist.

Re:Don't support the middlemen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018531)

The "middle man" is basically an investor with very expandable deep pocket plus connection and influence at a level which is basically priceless. So far no one else could match even remotely what the "middle man" offers.

This deep pocket and influence at that scale is what makes the fundamental difference between an obscure talent and an international superstar.

At least I don't know any superstar - and not only in music, but in any field of arts and entertainment, including movies, books - who has managed to make it without the "middle man".

If you do, please let me know. I am curious.

Format issues are already solved... (1)

csimpkin (808625) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017937)

Bring back the 8-track!

I've got that already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017961)

user@host:~$ abcde -1 -M -o flac

Destined to fail (2, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018031)

The world has moved on, yet the music industry once again demonstrates it hasn't figured this basic fact out yet.

While we /.'ers are all worked up about possible DRM, most of the world doesn't seem to care if it's done right. However I'm certain this format - with or without DRM - will live for a short period on life support, and then will quietly be allowed to die at a young age without a whimper. Nowadays most people just don't care about album liner notes, lyrics, and the like. Heck, even back when I was buying vinyl albums, I didn't care much. I might look at liner notes once... but usually I'd just glance at them while I was pulling the album out of its sleeve. I just wanted to hear the songs then, and that's all most people want from their music purchases now.

The album is alive and well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018069)

I just paid $100 (that's one hundred dollars) for the limited edition of the new Muse album. I get the CD, a USB key with "Muse" on it, a 12in print of the cover, the vinyl version of the album, a making of DVD, and the album in 5.1 sound on the DVD. While high, it is something I'd gladly pay for because I love the band.

Artists that make albums that work well will see sales that reflect that. Artists who insist on putting out one or two good songs per album will have to deal.

Good Idea, will be screwed up horribly (2, Insightful)

jmac_the_man (1612215) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018085)

If done properly this will be a good idea.
In this idea's simplest form, it can be a tar file which has to follow certain rules about what goes into it and its location. Think about how on a Unix system, /bin can be relied on to contain only certain executables, so if you need one of those things done, check there. If it's a system binary, check in /sbin. If it's other programs that aren't managed by the package manager, check /opt.
A properly done CMX would have top level directories like /art, /lyrics, /low-quality-music, and /lossless-music or something. Multiple pictures in the /art directory could give a slideshow to display where music players currently just have the album art. (You could even do things like require /art/cover to be the album art if you want.) And music players could go into /lyrics if the user asked for a karaoke mode or something. Then if you only distribute the CMX version on CD (and sell the album as packs of MP3s through iTunes and Amazon and everybody else) the RIAA is giving you an incentive to buy CDs from them again. This could be a win for everyone.
Of course, this is the RIAA we're talking, so it won't be.

What we need as consumers (1)

therufus (677843) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018147)

All record company politics aside, we need an open source album format. MP3's to date have been individual song formats. They can have limited graphics embedded into them, but they are limited to a single individual file package. What would be good is:

- An open source audio compression which is completely scalable (maybe ogg for one download option, flac for those who really enjoy their music).
- Different price points for different quality (an ogg album for example would be $10, flac could be $20, flac with all media extras including video could be at $30). Nine Inch Nails did this with Ghosts. There were, IIRC, about 6 different options to acquire the album that ranged from free, to $300. AND IT SOLD WELL!!!! (looking at this RIAA???)
- Embedded album art and liner notes. Maybe even music videos. With the speed and availability of the internet these days, downloading a 200mb album with video's should be an option.
- Easily extractable package. It would be good to add an album to your iTunes/xmms/winamp/wmp playlist and be able to pick out songs for shuffling purposes and such.
- NO DRM!

Someone mentioned .tar files. Something similar would be good, but you have to have native support in media players (iTunes, winamp, wmp, etc).

feature songs, lyrics, videos, liner notes... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018187)

Isn't that a DVD?

These days (1)

Zixaphir (845917) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018215)

It's obvious that the business model of the record companies are failing. Albums are going the route of a strictly enthusiast-only format while digital distribution of single songs becomes the standard. The radio is dead, MTV is dead -- people don't want to listen to songs they don't want to hear anymore to wait for the songs they do to pop up

So what should they do? Not what they are doing obviously. What needs to be done is they need to put the digital distribution model in the car, in the walkman, in the cellphones of the consumers. Yes, yes, two dollars to download a song is great, right? Well, that's fine and dandy, but when I'm thinking of a song I want to hear, it's an impulse, I want to hear it and I want to hear it NOW. How do you earn money from that? How does McDonalds earn money on hamburgers? Last I heard, about two cents at a time. You don't sell the user the rights to a hamburger, you sell them a hamburger they can eat once and it is done.

So how do you apply that to what's in your pocket? Charge two cents for a single listen. Buy a playlist for a buck, fifty songs, one listen each. Don't wanna pay? Package each song with a small advert. Customization options, shuffle, ability to sacrifice a listen to one song to hear another again. Work it like nearlyfreespeech.net, you pay for what you use. Tie it in with the satellites, lets see how it goes, baby.

Ah, nostalgia. (1)

Uniquitous (1037394) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018285)

"Hey guys...? Remember when you used to buy $20 CD's based on one or two good singles, and the other 10 tracks were just crap? But it had those two songs you really liked, and maybe one more decent one? Can we go back to that? Please? Love, -the RIAA"

Digital Audio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018373)

We already have a good digital album format. It's called the CD.

A suggestion: (1)

riboch (1551783) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018575)

How about selling CD's much less? I am sick of paying EUR15 or US$18 plus shipping for a CD. There are these things called enhanced CD's, that have everything they described: video, artwork, even games (e.g. Deftone's "White Pony").

I love CD's, if you reduce the price, I will buy many more. I get a higher quality and something physical.

I know I'm a dinosaur, but... (0, Redundant)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018759)

...what's wrong with a good old directory containing some mp3s (oggs, wavs, whatever), some jpgs (pngs, tiffs, whatever) of the album art, a m3u or other playlist file, and maybe some html notes and hyperlinks?

Oh, silly me. They want a single album file. gzip's got ya covered there, folks...

Who needs albums? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018793)

People say they want liner notes and a CD cover and all that, but when push comes to shove they just want to put a nickel in the nickelodeon and get music music music...

This is another solution looking for a problem.

Hey music companies! (1)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018801)

FLAC and a nice pdf. That's all I want.

Arms race (1)

cbraescu1 (180267) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018839)

This is just an arms race between the majors and Apple. None of them has a clear idea why are they doing it, but the simple fact that THE OTHER PART is doing it makes them race even faster.

Then a few years down the road they'll see the public so uninterested in their specs and "results", they'll just pretend it never happened.

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