They don’t want us to leave the house

As Imogen Heap pointed out in the slightly shabby music paper that’s shoved in The Indie at random intervals, record companies need to lower the prices for albums when you download them. To charge essentially the same price for compressed, protected tracks from iTunes as it is for a physical CD of the same thing seems ludicrous. And while some labels and artists are doing their bit for the record shops by putting a bit of extra effort in when it comes to the packaging or the content (Wilco, Travis, Duke Special), there are those offering download-only material in an attempt to snare extra sales with minimal effort (Wilco, Travis, Duke Special). This has particularly annoyed me with the new Wilco album.
Sky Blue Sky‘ is quite beautifully presented – the double 180g vinyl comes with a mini-LP replica style card sleeve edition of the CD tucked inside, while the afore-mentioned deluxe editon has a tremendous DVD with live performances and interviews. However, in addition, US purchasers who visit certain indie stores also receive a bonus disc with 2 tracks unavailable elsewhere – ‘One True Vine’ and live take on ‘Theologians‘ left out from ‘Kicking Television‘. I can just about get past the annoyance of this – well, living in the UK, they’re not going to bother releasing it over here. Then comes the iTunes bonus track. ‘Let’s Not Get Carried Away‘ is a splendid little addition to the record and can currently be purchased from iTunes without buying the entire album again. BUT – why are these songs being offered to promote online purchases? In Wilco‘s case they make such an effort with other aspects of packaging and audio quality that I’m less inclined towards a big sulky huff, but it’s happening a lot.
An online only, independent record store that I’m very fond of, Norman Records, made the point on their newly established blog that it’s fucking bonkers for independent labels to be releasing records a week early as download only. The notion that the independent community sticks together appears to be a bucket of old bollocks. The industry still hasn’t figured out what the best response to downloading and the internet is and so they try to offer incentives but keep the price fixed. They improve the deal for consumers who want to buy physical product, but then still dangle download carrots despite securing your custom. To be blunt, in the same way the 2CD collector’s set knackered the singles fans, they’re tapping into the completist nature of the obsessive fan. I’ve become increasingly fond of Wilco in recent years, and thus 79p here and 79p there is something I’ll cave into, but it still pisses me off that some music is only available by these digital means. (I’m aware, by the way, that ‘Let’s Not Get Carried Away‘ is available in the UK on the b-side of the ‘What Light‘ 7″ – except I can’t find a copy of that for love nor money either) The worst example of this was when The Divine Comedy‘s ‘To Die A Virgin‘ was dropped down from 2CDs to one and the second CD’s content became download only. I’m sure that a part of my obsession with having music in as high a quality as possible is psychological, but part of my resurgent love of vinyl is the warmth and breadth of sound you can get from it. Compressed, rights-protected AAC files don’t really have the same charm. Or sound. Duke Special chappy is releasing a cover of ‘Tainted Love‘ with Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy with the 75th re-issue of ‘Last Night I Nearly Died‘, only this time it will be download only. And so, despite the Duke campaiging for his latest album to be released as a heavyweight vinyl boxset of six 7″ singles and his singles being released on 78rpm 10″s, along comes a digital download ‘bundle‘. Ideal for the audience the previous releases will have targeted!? It’s bonkers. But the obsessives are by their very nature the minority. Thus, we’re knackered, reduced to ranting in a futile fashion on a blog with a small, but shall we say burgeoning, audience.
Rant over.

Till next time.

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