July 17, 2014 Last Updated 7:47 am

Concord Music Group releases five Paul McCartney LPs as iPad apps into the Apple App Store

Music apps appear to have been submitted by the music label months before their eventual appearance inside the App Store, released with little publicity by either the label or Apple

The music label Concord Music Group this week released five Paul McCartney LPs as apps for the iPad into the Apple App Store. The release was accomplished pretty much under the radar and with only a news story in The Guardian to warn fans that the apps would be coming. The apps, for the LPs <strong>McCartney (1970), RAM (1971), Band on the Run (1973), Wings Over America (1976), and McCartney II (1980), are not being promoted by Apple in the App Store, and as of today Concord has not issued a press release in support of the apps.

McCart-iPad-carouselThat is not the only odd thing about these apps: while it is clear that the apps were “released” on July 14, each of the app appear to have originally been given to Apple in September and October of last year, with three updates to the apps occurring before they were actually released into the App Store.

Normally, the release of these apps might be expected to be a big media event, with Apple including their release as part of a big event such as the introduction of a new iPad, for instance. But the apps, which feature archival photographs and video content, also allows the buyer to download the music files. Each app is priced at $7.99 (£5.49), which most reporters have mentioned is actually priced less than the equivalent iTunes release – though it should be pointed out that whether you buy the app or the MP3s, Apple still gets their cut. Also, the apps do not list the songs on the LPs – was this a requirement by Apple? One can only speculate as to why these were released exactly like this and apparently months after first being submitted to Apple.

The apps as downloaded from the App Store do not automatically contain the music or video content. Buyers need to download that content after they have installed the iPad app. Buyers are told that they can delete the content at any time to save space on their tablets, pointing to one of the biggest problems with using apps or eBooks as a way of delivering music (or film) content – the lack of storage available on tablets. (This brings up the question of whether streaming would be a better option.)

McCart-downloadsThe other problem with using the app or eBook platform is that the sound files are highly compressed. McCartney, Paul McCartney’s first LP released after leaving The Beatles, features audi files that only add up to 100 MB – not exactly CD quality, but not too bad.

The apps all appear to be designed to be used in portrait orientation. I found that an odd choice as most photographs and video content are shot in landscape. For a standard sized iPad, holding the tablet in landscape would seem a more natural choice, though the opposite might be true for a iPad mini.

These five new app releases are the first from Concord Music Group. The music label has an interesting history, fairly familiar to jazz lovers. The company was founded in 1973 in Concord, California, in the East Bay in Northern California, by auto dealer and jazz enthusiast Carl Jefferson. The label was known by jazz lovers for their releases for Herb Ellis, Stan Getz and others. The label was established a low point for jazz, so the launch of the new label was obviously a labor of love.

In 1994 Jefferson sold the label to film and TV producer Norman Lear and the company was moved to Beverly Hills. This changed the focus of the label from mostly jazz to pop. 2007 saw the founding of Hear Music, a joint venture between Concord and Starbucks – that is when Paul McCartney first signed up to release Memory Almost Full. In 2010 McCartney transferred the distribution rights to his post-Beatles work to Concord. In March of last year the label passed into the hands of PEs with its sale to Wood Creek Capital.

These five apps are hardly the first attempt to use the app format to distribute music-related content. Many of the other reports on the app have pointed to Björk’s app Björk: Biophilia. But most music apps have been promotional in nature such as The Doors app from Warner which contains no music but links out to iTunes to encourage music purchases, something one imagines Apple likes.

But I’ve always thought that both apps and eBooks held tremendous potential for both music labels and music magazines. Last year, during the time when TNM was being migrated from off the Blogger platform to its current WordPress site, I talked to a music label and a legacy music magazine about using the new platforms.

What I found was that the music label had no interest in pursuing anything other than releasing CDs and begrudgingly using Apple and Amazon for digital sales. I even created an interactive eBook for one of their bands which featured the original liner notes, magazine articles, photo galleries, video and, of course, the music. The owner said his wife had an iPad and he would download the project from Dropbox to review. A week or so later he finally admitted that he really had no interest in looking at the digital product or pursing new ways of promoting his artists or distributing their music.

A conversation with the editor of a legacy music magazine revealed the same kind of attitude. Digital publishing is something no one in their office was interested in, he told me. They do what they do, and despite having incredibly rich archives, were not interested in producing eBooks or new digital magazine products.

Clearly not everyone feels this way, and much like the advent of the MP3 labels and publishers can complain all they want but they can’t stop others from experimenting with the new digital platforms.

But what wonders is just how open Apple, Amazon and Google are to all this? They now have businesses built on the concept of selling downloads. They are moving to music streaming, but in both cases they control the transaction. With an app such as these new ones from Concord, the relationship changes a bit, finally to the advantage of the content producer.

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