Music publishers Universal and EMI are considering packaging more music albums as iPad apps, reports the New York Times. This will allow labels to charge app albums more than their standalone counterparts on iTunes because of the native experience and bonus multimedia content such as photos, video clips and lyrics:

The Universal Music Group has teamed up with a video company, Eagle Rock Entertainment, to create iPad versions of films about classic albums like Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” with social networking features that allow fan commentary. This month, Bjork announced that her next project, “Biophilia,” will encompass “music, apps, Internet, installations and live shows.

EMI already released “Until One”, a ten bucks app album for iPad by Swedish House Mafia, seen below. It weighs in at 659MB and comes with documentaries, image galleries and more. With app albums you get smooth experience and high interactivity without the overhead of iTunes LP (which in itself is a specially packaged web page with Javascript code and hooks for iTunes). Despite these bells and whistles, I see big problems with this new app album trend and here’s why.


Music distributed as iPad apps is locked. There’s no easy way to export individual music tracks to the built-in iPod app, let alone other music players. I can see a niche audience for app albums, but I doubt average consumers will buy music locked inside a single iOS app. Apple, of course, pioneered digital album format with iTunes LP and iTunes Extras unveiled in September of 2009 as ways to package music and movies with bonus content. However, the initial excitement about the formats dampened and iTunes LP failed to take off in a big enough way, despite Apple releasing TuneKit tools that enable content creators to create digital movie and song albums.

Both iTunes LP and app albums proposed by Universal and EMI require iTunes-compatible devices rather than being widely accepted standards supported by the entire industry. In the case of iTunes LP, one needs an Apple TV or desktop iTunes on Mac or Windows, excluding iOS devices.

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