There is very little to get excited about when it comes to new media file formats, for the average person. Sure, they offer better compression, better quality, smaller file sizes, etc., but they also cause headaches, render hardware obsolete, and just generally inconvenience everyday computer users. Apple is reportedly working on its own new format, but it looks like it could bring something to the table which will give everyone something to get excited about.
The new format, which is code named “Cocktail,” according to various whispers and rumbling around the web, will be more than just a new single-media codec. Instead, it will supposedly package a multitude of different components into one convenient package, which is why it presumably earned the Cocktail nickname.
Just like a mixed drink, it’ll deliver the main ingredient (music) with a selection of experience-enhancing extras, including lyrics, sounds, movies, and more. The new format is designed to draw in more digital music customers by providing extras you wouldn’t get via piracy, and to attract mainstream consumers who prefer traditional physical media because of box art, liner notes, and other perks that don’t always come with digital downloads.
The hope is that by offering a variety of extra incentives to buy full albums, digital music retailers will be able to avoid the kind of pick-and-choose single track purchasing that currently dominates the majority of online transactions. Personally, I’m a fan of encouraging musicians to focus on the album as a whole rather than just one or two chart-topping singles, but it’s probably a lot easier to slap some lipstick on a pig than to completely re-imagine the way pop music is made.
At least some people are taking these rumors very seriously, and are acting preemptively to avoid being left behind. Sony, Warner, Universal, and EMI, who have a love-hate relationship with Apple, since it drives a lot of revenue toward the record companies, but also dictate terms as a result, are developing a Cocktail competitor, and aren’t afraid to let people know about it.
The label-spearheaded format will feature artwork, liner notes, songs, videos, and images, and will all be combined in a central launch page that opens when you click on an album file. It sounds like there won’t be much difference between the two formats, with the exception that Apple’s will probably be fully iTunes compatible from the start, while the label conglomerate will likely have to seek alternate delivery routes, like Amazon, to distribute theirs.
While I personally don’t see myself rushing to pick up digital albums with a bunch of extras of questionable merit (shovelware?) thrown in, especially if they command a premium price, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of the ongoing battle between Apple and the major labels for control of the digital music industry.