I'm sure any change like this is bound to annoy some people. The one aspect I struggled with the most was my reluctance to give up the printed spine, so that discs can be easily identified from the edge when stored on a shelf. I couldn't come up with any acceptable package that included a square spine like that, while allowing us to print and cut the materials ourselves.
Regular manufactured CDs have the printed materials made at professional print shops, where they have expensive die-cutting and fold-scoring equipment we don't have. Without these things, cutting and folding your own tray cards is really difficult and prone to screw-ups.
We looked at cases similar to DVD cases (clamshell/snapper design with a clear plastic sleeve on the outside, into which you can slip a printed paper cover) in CD case size, and we almost decided to go this way, in fact I purchased a large quantity of these cases. It just felt less professional and less elegant, I guess. We may find a way to use this package style at some point in the future, as this package type has some real positives going for it.
We also considered variations on Umbra, Faria, Cyclic Law and other "folio" or "sleeve" type packages. I like those labels' releases very much and each has positives going for it, but I really hoped to cut down on plastic if possible. Also the sticky flaps are annoying at times. I know I'm reluctant to remove the printed materials from some of these plastic-sleeved releases because I don't want to deal with trying to get it back into the sleeve again, and sticking the adhesive to the paper. The other downside to these formats, at least in my opinion, is the non-standard size. I like the larger size from the point of view of more printed area = bigger artwork = nicer to look at. But I don't like storing these items on my shelf. My own copies of these labels' CDs are stuck off to the side of my CD shelf, not sorted where they should be alphabetically.
I also thought about doing the Hypnos CDs the way we do the Hypnos Secret Sounds discs (except using pressed discs instead of CDR discs), which would simplify a little bit from what we're doing. But we still wouldn't have the spine print, unless we went to one of the special j-cut slimline cases, as we've seen with the Blue Oasis releases and a few others. Those look nice, but the cases are hard to find, and I consider it a plus to have a package that has easily replacable components. That's one of the positives of both our Hypnos and HSS packaging, which is that if the case breaks you can easily replace it.
Our translucent paper envelopes look elegant in my opinion, they feel nice, they don't stick or otherwise make it difficult to remove or reinsert the booklet and/or disc. Though it's probably difficult for people to find replacement envelopes locally, we'll probably sell replacement envelopes very inexpensively through our store, something like 4 for $1, in case people have a few "new style" Hypnos CDs that get worn out. Again, not a perfect solution but I think it's the best compromise.
We really wanted to create an object we have more control over (in other words, can easily print/cut/fold ourselves without commercial-grade die-cutting equipment), one that also combined elegant appearance and texture with a material simplicity. It's been very hard for me to let go of the old, established way of doing things and move forward with plans to actually go ahead and do this, but I know it's vital for the continuation of Hypnos. In the end I think it will result in more CD releases, more flexibility in what we include as far as artwork, photographs, and printed materials, and a bit more freedom to release experimental, edgy materials without worrying quite so much about having a huge stack of unsold materials in the garage, not to mention a sort of sick feeling from having paid to press 1,000 conventional discs while having only sold 50 of them. In other words, our "break even" on a given CD release will be substantially lower and that will let us release more music, take a chance on more artists, and maybe move a few things we would previously have done on Hypnos Secret Sounds over to the Hypnos label proper.
I'm glad to be pushing forward with this, and it's my expectation that the first release of this type, the aforementioned Viridian Sun album, will be dropped off at the pressing plant next week, and should be released during September.
Thanks, everybody, for your continued interest and support. We hope to release many dozens or even hundreds of interesting new releases for you in the future, and once we've solved this "new packaging" thing, we'll address the matter of digital downloads.