New digital album formats on the way

The record labels and Apple are going head to head

The ‘big four’ major record companies have joined forces to launch a new digital album format that they hope will take on Apple.

Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI are putting the finishing touches to an album download that will include a digitised version of the record sleeve, including artwork, lyrics and videos.

Dubbed CDX and launched in November, the new format is designed to boost interest in a digital album sales, according to The Times. While online music has flourished via sales of single tracks, sales of whole records are still suffering. While nine out of ten single sales are digital, that figure is reversed with nine out of ten album sales being physical.

The alliance apparently approached Apple, the giant behind iTunes, last year with the plan – but were rebuffed. Apple are now apparently developing their own album format, codenamed Cocktail, which they plan to launch in the next two months.

A label insider told the paper: “Apple told us at first but were not interested, but now they have decided to do their own, in case ours catches on. Ours will be a file that you click on, it opens and it would have a totally brand-new look, with a launch page and all the different options. When you click on it you’re not just going to get the ten tracks, you’re going to get artwork, the video and mobile products.”

A spokesperson for the Entertainment Retailers Association said there was a demand for digital music to embrace the old qualities of a physical album. They added: “It is the great conundrum of our age: what would an album look like online? At the moment a download in no sense replicates that satisfying quality of a physical album.

“Think about the importance of the gift market for albums. Online it’s stripped down to bare music, and there’s a lot more to an album than that.”