Legendary songwriter Paul McCartney has re-released five seminal albums, including both solo work and Wings material, as iPad apps. The former Beatle joins a small but growing camp of musicians who’ve opted to release their records as apps crammed with goodies, including interviews, rare photos, artwork, liner notes and, of course, the digital versions of the tracks themselves. Each app is available for about $10 via the iTunes Store, significantly less than the $14-plus price set for each of the digitized, remastered albums available individually through iTunes.
The apps include making-of/behind-the-scenes photos of recording sessions and album artwork photo shoots (some by Linda McCartney and Clive Arrowsmith). Also included are rare videos, historic background for each record, interviews with various band members and McCartney himself, and original artwork for each of the releases (full-lengths and singles). Upon downloading, the app is essentially empty – all the related music and video content are downloaded via the “download content” button within the app. Clicking a track or video (before you’ve downloaded it) will bring up a prompt to begin the download.
The album-as-app phenomenon was kicked off in part with Björk’s release of Biophilia for free via the iTunes App Store in 2011. In the app, songs are accompanied by a cosmic interface with a variety of options including lyrics, animation, and karaoke-like features to name a few. Since then, others have tried their hand at the artform, including Jay-Z with the release of his Magna Carter Holy Grail app.
While the phenomenon has generated its fair share of hate and doubt, we can’t help but see the burgeoning format as a possible new frontier for the release of music, one in which the benefits of holding a physical record in your hands meet the undeniable convenience of digitization. Even if the album-as-app never catches fire, for die-hard fans of legends like Paul McCartney, an easy way to get closer to the music is an enticing concept.