iTunes “cocktail” may incentivize full albums

Apple and the music industry are reportedly working on a new kind of liner notes to lure people into buying more full albums.

The Financial Times reported — on the word of two unnamed sources — that the project codenamed “Cocktail” will include interactive booklets, sleeve notes and other features with full album downloads. The Associated Press added that ring tones could be included as well.

One executive told FT that the project is about “recreating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork while you listened to the music.”

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Some may say the juicier part of FT’s report is the possibility that both Apple and record labels are working to get Cocktail ready in time for Apple’s tablet computer — itself another rumor. But that story’s been floating around for ages. What’s most interesting is the attempt to bring back the full album, regardless of which device is carrying it.

See, I kind of miss the album. I liked that feeling of cracking open a CD and reading about the work while listening to it. Nonetheless, downloading is simply easier and often cheaper than ordering a disc or buying it from the store, and I’m not sure the album mentality can be restored anyway.

For better or worse, the portable MP3 player has changed the way we listen to music. Even with an iPod full of full albums, it’s fun to weave different bands into a playlist or add the element of surprise by shuffling.

A resurgence of the full album is happening, but mostly for a niche audience that’s rediscovering vinyl. When it comes to digital downloads, Big Music will have to keep searching for a way to sell more.