Can 3Plet save music album sales?

The Estonian startup's apps give traditional albums a digital makeover and could help to keep them relevant as music streaming and internet radio stations continue to grow in popularity.

It may only be January, but all of the signs suggest that 2014 will be the year that music streaming services -- from Spotify, Beats, Google or even Apple -- are going to move into the mainstream. This momentous musical maneuvering will bring with it changes in consumer behavior.

Curated playlists -- based on genre, mood, beats per minute or simply ‘what's hot' -- will soon be the typical way of listening to music, where, once upon a time, listening to every track on an album would have been the only choice, usually while reading the sleeve notes and admiring the artwork.

The traditional album isn't quite dead yet. In the US, CDs still account for 57.2 percent of album sales, but digital downloads and streaming services are closing the gap.

3Plet wants to preserve this experience while dragging it kicking and screaming into an increasingly mobile and connected present by offering album apps.

The concept, which is already proving popular in Eastern Europe and is now headed to the US and Western Europe, combines digital versions of artwork, background material and further reading on the band in question, online links and plugs into official YouTube and social media accounts.

Apple has attempted to retain the album experience by offering iTunes users a PDF version of an album's artwork and inlays when purchased digitally. And while the digital sleeves can look good on a tablet, 3Plet's approach is different.

Each album is offered as an app that's free to download. Users can access a limited amount of information from it and sample one or two songs for free but then, if they like what they see and hear, they have the option to buy the remaining tracks and get the full experience via an in-app purchase.

According to TechCrunch, 3Plet builds the app for each artist or group and takes a cut of any revenues from the in-app purchases.