Album as Advertisement or Application?

We wrote last week about Apple’s efforts to preserve the sanctity of the album through artwork and extras, a move that attempts to synthesize the digital format’s emerging dominance with the holistic listening experience of the past. But what is the future of the album exactly? Is it merely an outmoded concept that speaks more to the artist’s craft than what the audience actually wants to hear (i.e. hit singles divorced of any context that can be easily inserted into personalized playlists)?

Image Credit: Getty Images, Richard Newstead/Flickr

We wrote last week about Apple’s efforts to preserve the sanctity of the album through artwork and extras, a move that attempts to synthesize the digital format’s emerging dominance with the holistic listening experience of the past. But what is the future of the album exactly? Is it merely an outmoded concept that speaks more to the artist’s craft than what the audience actually wants to hear (i.e. hit singles divorced of any context that can be easily inserted into personalized playlists)?

Two emerging trends from this week – album as advertisement and album as application – only serve to further complicate the current picture of music sales, and for an industry desperately looking for answers, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Island Def Jam Music Group is hoping to bolster its sagging revenue streams by leveraging the direct marketing appeal of a target demographic – think of it as fan base as captive audience. To that end, Mariah Carey’s upcoming release, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” will come packaged with a special 34-page booklet (co-produced with Elle magazine) that along with glimpses into the artist’s lifestyle, will contain ads that reflect Carey’s distinctive tastes. Brands currently signed on include Elizabeth Arden, Angel Champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Métier de Beauté and the Bahamas Board of Tourism.

While this move may be seen as savvy from a marketing standpoint, tacking on a few precious dollars of revenue to each sale, it fails to address the larger industry trends, namely how people are consuming their music, and threatens to alienate the dwindling numbers of fans that are still buying albums. But if iLike‘s modular application model takes off, this might all be moot anyway.

Their customizable dashboard enables labels to easily develop applications on the fly, and they’re increasingly being used as platforms for artists and albums, showcasing anything from music videos and photos to concert listings and promotions, along with social features that allow fans to connect. The most basic designs are available for free, with those containing full length songs being priced accordingly.

Though its not clear if users will be able to share the music contained within these apps across multiple platforms, the extra features certainly create a much richer user experience. If iLike becomes an industry standard, it could potentially represent a paradigm shift in terms of format.

And no matter what album ultimately comes to resemble as we look down the line, it’s clear that the industry is finally taking note of the change landscape. And whether they’re being innovative or downright perplexing, as long as we keep buying, it remains safely in the hands of the consumers to decide.

BrandWeek: The Monetization of Mimi: Mariah CD to Have Ads

Wired: The Album Is Dead, Long Live the App

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