Music Labels Planning New Digital Album Format

The big four music labels - Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI - are apparently planning to record a new digital album format called CMX which, it is claimed, will include songs, lyrics, videos, liner notes and artwork.

The project resembles (and will compete with) Apple's own album project, codenamed Cocktail and ironically carries the same file extension as Apple Viewer. Both formats are expected to be launched by the end of the year and aim to increase the attractiveness of album downloads.

The idea of an "enhanced album format" was first proposed to Apple in 2007 by the four labels but Apple decided to go its own way and Cocktail was born (Apple is also expected to launch a 10-inch tablet at the same time to take advantage of the new file format).

The main dissenting point was the fact that Apple wanted to allow consumers to choose which songs go into an album whereby record companies were stuck with the idea that an album's content had to remain fixed.

Labels are convinced that customers are willing to pay more for extras such as an interactive booklet, sleeve, interviews, clips or short video footage similar to the way DVD bonus works.

A label executive even told the Independent that "Almost every time we've sold product with extras at a premium price it outsells the normal priced product". Cynics will say that now that the recording companies can't squeeze more juice out of their customers, they need to find another trick.

The big problem that the labels will be facing as well is the fact that Apple controls more than 70 percent of the music market in the US and according to their own figures, 13 percent of all music worldwide, making it a player that simply cannot be ignored.