How to get me to buy plastic

15 April 2009, 6:32 am

I don’t buy nearly as much music on physical media as I used to. I’ve made my peace with MP3 sound quality. iTunes dropped the DRM , so I dropped my boycott. Amie Street has recently joined Emusic as a favored source for legit MP3 downloads.

So mostly I buy CDs and vinyl these days when I have a deep, longstanding and/or personal connection to the artist or label.

But I noticed the other day that many of my recent physical media purchases had something in common. It wasn’t premeditated, it just happened. In alphabetical order:

  • Apollo Ghosts, (Warning: MySpace) Hastings Sunrise: LP package included MP3 download code
  • Andrew Bird & Loney Dear, tour-commemorating split single: EP package included MP3 download code
  • John Wesley Harding, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead: Pre-order included CD, bonus live CD, and MP3 download after payment processing.
  • Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, Goodnight Oslo: Pre-order included CD, EP with bonus tracks, and immediate MP3 download of all tracks
  • Jim’s Big Ego, Free. CD purchase included MP3 download after payment processing. (I think the download was also available prior to the official release date.)
  • Metric, Fantasies: Pre-order included CD, immediate MP3 download of bonus tracks, full dowload after release date.
  • New Grenada, Energy Shortage: LP purchase included sticker, download code after payment processing.
  • Sonic Youth, The Eternal: I’m impatient for this pre-order with “a limited live LP, exclusive MP3s and a poster” (and a full-album stream, which adds no value for me)

Possible lessons for artists and labels who want to keep selling plastic:

  • Give me MP3s with my plastic:
    • It’s in your interest to be on my iPod
    • I’m lazy; so make it easy
    • It should cost you almost nothing
  • Offer a bonus to purchasers of physical media
  • If generating release-date buzz is important to your marketing plan, offer a bonus with pre-orders

5 comments on “How to get me to buy plastic”

  1. Tim W.

    I get why MP3 downloads with LPs is attractive, but don’t get it with CDs. It’s easier to rip than download, and I can control the quality/space tradeoff.

  2. villain

    For me, it’s the (close to) instant gratification factor. I can effectively listen to the CD while I wait for the CD to arrive — otherwise there’s actually a counter incentive to purchasing the physical media vs purchasing a download — I have to wait until it shows up (either in my mailbox or at bricks & mortar retailer) to listen to it (assuming I don’t cheat and acquire an illegit download in the meantime). It’s actually easier for me to download than to rip, and most (if not all) of the downloads were of comparable quality to my default rip settings (i.e., more like Emusic than iTunes).

    Thing I meant to say originally but left out: The extra incentives definitely did influence my purchase decisions; there are items on this list I wouldn’t have purchased physically (or maybe even at all) otherwise.

  3. villain

    …the other thing I meant to say: the total price for all of these was a fair market price for the plastic alone.

  4. Tim W.

    That make sense. Probably I didn’t think of it that way because I still buy CDs primarily in the store.

  5. villain

    2 quick updates:
    1. The pre-order for John Vanderslice’s Romanian Names includes a download code, and the first 100 lucky fans also received a snippet of analog tape from the making of the album.
    2. The Sonic Youth pre-order actually breaks my rule of “fair market price for the plastic,” but it comes with a lot of bonus material.


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