What does Apple's "Cocktail" mean for album art?

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daftpu-digita_02.jpgThe advent off the online digital music store is quickly approaching its 10th anniversary. Yet, we have seen very little innovation in the graphics that are used to market digital music. Small versions of the cover art are used to illustrate the product in the online stores, such as iTunes and Amazon.com. It is now standard for these graphics files to be embedded in the digital music file and displayed for browsing and play on our computers.

According to an article in today’s Financial Times, Apple is working with major record labels to bring back the album as a viable digital sales format. The project is codenamed “Project Cocktail” and it appears to be a combination between a digital booklet and a digital music player. I’m not sure that I would find such a product useful. Like most people, I don’t tend to listen to an entire album from beginning to end unless it is exceptional. I prefer to listen to my own playlists of various artist.

Apple joins forces with record labels
By Matthew Garrahan in Los Angeles, Kenneth Li in New York and Joseph Menn in San Francisco

Published: July 27 2009 01:01 | Last updated: July 27 2009 01:01

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.


Physical album sales have fallen sharply as music retailing has evolved from CD album purchases in retail outlets to digital downloads of songs from online stores.


Apple is working with EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music Group, on a project the company has codenamed “Cocktail”, according to four people familiar with the situation.

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This comes at a time when many people are lamenting the demise of the traditional album cover. It remains to be seen whether or not Apple can come up with a quality product that will include quality graphics. Their most recent digital sales format, the Digital 45, was a huge disappointment. The digital booklets contained poor-quality scans that added very little value or incentive to purchase.

Here’s what Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired magazine blog Epicenter had to say about Project Cocktail: 

Take today’s widely-echoed Financial Times report about “Project Cocktail” — an attempt by Apple and the four major labels to re-imagine the digital album with soft (as in onscreen) album art. They hope album art that embraces digital technology, rather than merely providing a miniaturized version of the original album cover, will entice music fans to start buying digital albums again. Apple and the labels envision fans gathering ‘round the glow of their laptops — or tablet PCs — to listen to music together, the way they used to before they retreated into their own digital pods.

Source: Epicenter

There is no doubt that cover art will continue to be a part of the way music is packaged and marketed. How that art will be formatted for digital sales in the future is anyone’s guess. Personally, I don’t have much faith in the innovative talents of Apple. It will take a visionary artist to take album art to the next level and Apple just doesn’t seem to have that kind of talent on board.

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1 Comment

The most important question is what will this mean for independent recording artists.

Right now, independent artists can produce their own CD marketing materials — CD label, cover art, liner notes, etc. Home publishing technologies are good enough for them to create a marketable product for very little cost.

With this new “interactive” booklet from Apple and the record labels, the Indie artists will be shut out of that technology.

This is just another way for the record labels to continue to exploit talent.

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This page contains a single entry by Fritz published on July 27, 2009 10:11 AM.

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