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I was an early adopter back when Bandcamp got started. I love it, they know how to treat artists, and buying music through bandcamp is dead easy. I also like the way they handle physical sales, as I have to box it up and mail it myself, not depend on cdbaby or a different distribution platform. This makes the artist and listeners feel more connected, and I like that.
I recently bought the Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" 3-disc set. This had the same goofy packaging I've seen on other big name bands/record companies reissues, by groups such as U2, Led Zeppelin, etc., wherein the CD's slide in and out of very thin cardboard/paper holders from the top of the packaging. The problem is the CD's get scratched by the paper packaging; and even if you remove the disc(s) carefully, often they are already badly scratched when removing them from the packaging for the first time, from when they were assembled at the factory. I looked at all three Rumours discs under the light yesterday and they looked like they had been put under someone's shoe and scraped along the floor, and they're only about 2 days old!
Can't these record companies design better packaging to protect the discs? I like fancy packaging as much as the next guy, but to me the discs are the most important thing and should be secured properly to avoid damage.
I've noticed this is a problem more in the pop music world rather than the ambient world. Some ambient labels, like Darla, have been issuing CD's in the thin cardboard sleeve packaging, but if you remove them carefully enough you can avoid scratches. Often what I'll do though is just put them in my own "safe sheets" so they don't slide around and get scratched.
QuoteI much prefer physical CD's over downloads, but sometimes it seems the BS you have to go through with flaky or unprofessional sellers is not worth it.
I generally have good experiences with mail order, but the occasional bad ("we forgot to send it") or slow (overseas) experience always leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Here is the physical/digital compromise that I've come to adore: Bandcamp.
A number of ambient, experimental, and minimalist artists and labels are now selling their CDs on Bandcamp. What is awesome about buying CDs via Bandcamp is that the artist/label receives an e-mail notifying them of the payment/mailing address. So the label/artist can send out the physical copy per the usual slow process. But, as soon as you make the purchase, you can immediately download the release in a number of digital formats--including flac if you're an audiophile--all of which are DRM free.
Thanks to Bandcamp, the physical CD vs. download option is no longer a mutually exclusive choice for the consumer. I think of this as win-win for everyone. For the consumer, you get the physical product, but, while you wait, you can enjoy the digital release and/or store it on your hard drive as backup. If you want to save some money, you can download the digital version only. Plus, when the artist is slow to deliver, at least you have something to listen to in the meantime. On the artist/label side, I think you get a generous portion of the sale price. Plus, since Bandcamp covers the hosting and sales end, it makes it ridiculously easy (I assume) to sell in a global marketplace with little maintenance, auxiliary costs, etc. Plus, exposure becomes more "natural": I've discovered a number of artists simply by checking the playlists of other people who bought things that I also bought. It is so much fun to see what other people with like-minded tastes are listening to. In addition, because it is often possible to hear an entire track or album before buying, the exposure factor is fantastic.
It is very rare for me to order physical releases from sellers that do not have a Bandcamp presence these days. I still do it, but, I find myself less likely to do so than in the past simply because I love ability to download the digital immediately and receive the physical CD later. Bandcamp makes the process so darn fun and rewarding.