Why the New “Interactive Album” Concept: A Bargain at Any Price?

By Mike McGuire | August 12, 2009 | 0 Comments

You’ve probably seen the stories (like this one) about a rumored “new” format for packaging prerecorded online music into the new digital or interactive album.

If true, the promise of some new type of content bundle could be an interesting new opportunity for music labels to redefine their roles. Or they could totally screw up this one last chance they have to find a profitable slot in the music industry.  One thing is for sure, the concept is coming into a marketplace for pre-recorded music which has been completely reshaped by consumers exerting complete control over the configuration of the music they will purchase.

Unimaginative attempt to drive an average selling price-per-unit from $.99 to something more or is it a compelling new mix of content types that justifies any price above $.99? Not clear to me which way it will swing, but until somebody does something, we can speculate.

Among the ideas for what might be layered in include lyrics, “extra” or “special” songs, perhaps a video or two, maybe a coupon or code so the buyer can maybe get pre-order concert tickets for the band or artist’s tour. (The pre-order-for-concert-code might actually be more important for the live-performance market than the pre-recorded market, given the ups and downs of that sector not to threatened congressional hearings into the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the two largest concert promoters.)

It certainly has potential as a concept.  Anybody can think of interesting possible bundles. Off the top of my head:

  • Curated bundle: the band’s mix of songs, lyric sheets, animation, video, schedule of additional songs (new or live)  etc. More adventurous bands can consider things like providing stems to be used by consumers to create mash-ups or remixes using tools such as Mixmatchmusic.
  • Loose bundle: basic set of songs, cover art, lyrics, future releases e.g. live cuts or new singles.

But with anything “new” in the online music industry, it would appear that this new concept has created yet more tension between Apple and the major music labels – and probably some of the independent labels, too. According to the News.Com story, Apple is taking an idea for interactive albums first proposed by the labels a few years ago.  One can only hope that they figure out a single, compatible solution.  Actually, what I’d hope for is that if there are going to be two formats for the interactive album, that they’re not incompatible e.g. I need a “special” digital or interactive album to play on an iPod, or iPhone vs a Windows PC or mobile device. 

But that just won’t happen, will it? I mean surely . . . Nobody would seriously believe that would  be a good thing. Right?

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