Music Labels to Offer Enhanced Album Format to Compete With Apple's 'Cocktail'?

The Times reported over the weekend that the "big four" record labels are planning a November launch of a new digital album format known as "CMX" that will compete with Apple's rumored "Cocktail" offering reportedly scheduled for a September release.

The world's big four record companies are to go head-to-head with Apple with the launch of a new form of album download that will include a digitised version of a record sleeve.

Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI are putting the finishing touches to an album format that will give music fans a computerised version of the sleeve notes that come as standard with a CD, including lyrics and artwork, and videos.

The report puts a different spin on the developments than that revealed in the initial report about Cocktail from the Financial Times. While the earlier report suggested that Apple and the record labels were working closely together on Cocktail, The Times now claims that Apple rebuffed the record labels' suggestion of the project and only began developing Cocktail once the labels decided to press ahead with their own CMX project.

It is understood that the record labels approached Apple, maker of the iPod, about 18 months ago with the plan to revitalise album downloads by bundling together extra features in a single download.

Industry insiders say that their project, with the working title CMX, was rebuffed by Apple. The technology giant is now understood to be working on its own format, codenamed Cocktail, which it hopes to launch within two months.

One senior record label insider said: "Apple at first told us that they were not interested, but now they have decided to do their own, in case ours catches on."

The CMX project reportedly is looking to develop album "files" that when opened will provide a "launch page" offering access to an album's tracks, as well as related artwork, video, and mobile content.

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