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Record Labels Mix Up a Rival to Apple's "Cocktail"

Silly, music business. Will the record labels ever learn? There's news today that a group of record labels are busy working on their own next-generation digital album format to rival Apple's "Cocktail" system. It's doomed to failure.

Apple CocktailNot the concept itself—the actual format, given the working name of CMX by its parents Sony, Warner, Universal, and EMI. It's a digital wrapper for music tracks, trying to re-inject some life into the dying habit of collecting music into albums by adding textual, graphical, and video content. At least that's the technical description: A spokesman speaking to the U.K. press described it thusly: "Ours will be a file that you click on, it opens, and it would have a 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 10 tracks, you're going to get the artwork, the video, and mobile products." Perhaps I should have warned pregnant women and the faint of heart before sharing such an illuminating quote.

CMX was apparently offered to Apple in a behind-the-scenes business discussion, but Apple rejected the idea in order to develop its own spin on an album wrapper format, the Cocktail recipe we've heard bits about recently. So Sony and mates decided to press on anyway.

It's a classic mistake. Apple, with soaring iPhone sales and with iTunes in a commanding position as the digital music portal for the world, knows its game rules pretty well. If the folks in Cupertino chose to turn down CMX and develop their own format, I imagine they had some carefully thought-out reasons. CMX is now unlikely to be supported by iTunes or the initial versions of the iTablet that everyone's presuming will accompany the launch of Cocktail, both of which are likely to doom the format. The labels' decision to continue on anyway merely demonstrates some of the same "our way is best" thinking that has brought them into collision with the whole digital music business in the past.

Nope. Apple's way is best. Or at least it has been until now. If the rumors are right, we've only got a handful of weeks to find out anyway—Cocktail is rumored to be served up sometime in September.

[via The Guardian]