The drop off of interest in albums - and in particular, being forced to buy filler tracks because albums used to come in a specific size, and that's the way it should be, dammit - has worried the RIAA labels. And, naturally, rather than try and adapt to the way technology has changed their business, the response is to try and find ways to pretend its still 1972.
Apple, bless them, are helping, conspiring on a project with the supersecret name Cocktail. What's cocktail? The FT explains:
Apple is working with the four largest record labels to stimulate digital sales of albums by bundling a new interactive booklet, sleeve notes and other interactive features with music downloads, in a move it hopes will change buying trends on its online iTunes store.
Ah yes. Sleeve notes. That'll make it worth paying for 12 tracks when you really only want the decent song.
It doesn't seem to have occurred to the labels that if they want to sell songs in batches of a dozen, or a half-dozen, the easiest thing to do would be to make all those songs worth having. No, no: Let's give people a little essay about the songs they don't want. That'll reel 'em in.
Apple, clearly, don't view this as lobbing a bunch of old rubbish into the deal in the hope of flogging a few extra units:
“It’s not just a bunch of PDFs,” said one executive. “There’s real engagement with the ancillary stuff.”
Oh, yes. I can't get enough of that, erm, ancillary stuff.
It doesn't make track seven any better if you're able to listen to it while reading that the middle vocalist thanks God for his help on it.
Apple wants to make bigger purchases more compelling by creating a new type of interactive album material, including photos, lyric sheets and liner notes that allow users to click through to items that they find most interesting. Consumers would be able to play songs directly from the interactive book without clicking back into Apple’s iTunes software, executives said.
So... instead of simply buying the tracks you want, you spend more, get some sort of proprietorial locked-up thing which you can work your way through to find a way to hear the tracks you want. I really hope we can also queue up to buy these at the Apple Store, perhaps in the rain, as it doesn't sound inconvenient enough already.
Maybe this is why the project is called Cocktail, presumably after the Tom Cruise movie which also made anyone near it want to smash things until the pain went away.