According to CD Baby: “Over 70% of the music-buying public still prefers to purchase physical CDs, and most music journalists won’t write about your act unless you’ve sent them a professional-grade disc.”
Nowadays there’s sooo much room for innovation. It seems to be that each artist needs to figure out what works best with their audience. There is no ‘new model’ that everyone’s going to embrace, though we all keep trying 🙂 I like Darren Landrum’s ideas about having various ‘bonus materials’. Sounds like a great way to have the best of both worlds. There also seems to be more freedom in the instrumental world, I keep hearing about ‘mini-discs’ that contain one long piece of music on them, those seem like an inexpensive alternative that makes it possible to release each song or ‘piece’ as it’s completed.
My basic feeling is this: Making a really nice physical product is even more important now, in the face of all the alternatives, a CD (or vinyl or cassette) really has to ‘justify’ it’s existence. I know how I am, I download most of my music, and when I do get a real CD, I instantly dismantle it, save the jewel case for my own use (I run my own studio, so I’m always giving people discs of sessions) then I have a big box in my loft where all my liner notes reside, and the CD gets burned into my computer then stored in a binder, I just need to be this way, I have a small house! BUT, there are those certain albums where the art is really well done and the product itself feels like an object of art (there’s actually a Japanese theory that an object can acquire a soul if it is imbued with enough energy from the person that owns, or who has made it) and I don’t have the heart to tear those apart.
As I’m about to complete my new record, I thought about whether I should make a disc at all, or how nice it should be. So this subject is pretty pertinent for me right now. I decided to make this one as nice as I could afford, I’ve been working with my brother, who’s a fantastic artist, and we’re using a high end printshop (Stumptown, in Portland OR) we’re even getting the nicest paper we can, and we’re including a poster with the CD (when folded up the poster will double as an info/contact postcard) all in an attempt to give people a valuable product that will, hopefully, go a little beyond the ‘download experience’. Possibly in vain, we are attempting to create an experience where people will pop in the album, then look at the art as they listen.
As the music unfolds, they would unfold the panels of the packaging and the poster-they are actually designed with this in mind. We’ll see how it turns out, but we feel that it’s worth the effort to try and create something that is a work of art.