I'm enjoying this discussion and the different perspectives. I used to be completely against downloads, and the few experiences I had with them were uninspiring, and the feeling of detachment from the material made me lose interest quickly. But now, with some experience using an ipod, I am able to understand the counter point to this, and enjoy music detached from material. Though granted I do not and will not buy downloads, I am talking about burning cds into itunes (am listening to Robert Inglis' reading of Lord of the Rings right now).
But am I the only one who thinks itunes is a piece of crap? There are various reasons, but in general it just feels irritating and uncooperative to use. This further deters me from wanting to get downloads.
I've been listening to Roach's 4cd set Mystic Chords this evening, and the enjoyment of the digipaks and fine cover art adds to my experience of the music. I think for packaging these days we have to be very discerning and make something of quality, both graphically and in a tactile/material sense. It's not enough to throw a crappily designed and printed 4 panel piece of paper in a jewel case and call that packaging. I'd really rather see a download only release than that kind of thing. I like how labels like 12k and hypnos have simple and elegant packaging, with design consistency, that project elegance and commitment.
But what about designers and musicians teaming up to produce music accompanied by posters, books, or other specialty items? And then perhaps a download code could be included with the special materials, and those would be limited, and somewhat pricey due to the fine materials and effort put into them. But there could be a cheap option for the non collector to just purchase the download. That might work for everybody, and make the graphic design nerds happy! Curious to know what you guys think of this option...
I am planning a release with a musician that will be just a big, beautiful hand-sewn and printed book that will be built on the same theme and is inspired by the music. We are not sure whether to include a high quality (such as Taiyo Yuden) cdr and the conveyor of the musical information, or just have a special printed post card slotted into the back, that would contain the download code. When I look at the money outlay required for a run of 500 cds, it is somewhat frustrating. Another avenue to take would be for smaller companies to do very low run yet high quality cd pressings, though I don't know the pressing industry, and this may not be feasible.