Tuesday 21 February 2017

Download cards with vinyl are wanted

Some record labels are grumbling about including download cards with vinyl pressings. Given the low redemption rates - between 5 and and 25% and dropping all the time, according to a survey of labels by Vinyl Me Please - it's easy to see the labels' frustration at the additional cost.

The alternatives, though, are either prohibitively expensive or inconvenient. I'm not prepared to pay Spotify £120 a year to stream music I already own. If they have it, of course.

YouTube is free to use, but you can't access any other apps if you're listening to it. Yes, I know it's a visual medium, but I don't need to stare at an album cover for 40 minutes.

Record labels have a different idea about the value of downloads than the record buyer. They want our email addresses so they can spam us with their newsletters. No thanks.

If you're demanding a download is sent to an email address, many people use an old hotmail address that they never otherwise check. If as happened last week, you demand a name and email address but I get the download directly, you'll get something like this:

Direct email marketing doesn't work. Labels know how effective download cards are. Before bitching quite so much about download cards, perhaps they can share the efficacy of their email marketing.

There are many better ways to reach fans - if I like a band or label, I follow them on Twitter. I don't need an email as well.

Some labels know this, of course. Which is why they let you download the album via one of your social media accounts. So they can use your account to harvest more contacts for their spam. Mate, I only want the Loyle Carner album download, which I've paid for, you don't get anything in return:

We know that technology drives music consumption. So when people had an ipod they had thousands of MP3s. Someone left a comment on my blog a few years ago claiming authority on music because he had over 100,000 MP3s. He reminded me of the young man I met at a party who had 11 Jonathan Richman albums. Great, I thought, we've got plenty of common ground to chat. But he'd never played even one of them.

The people who want downloads now are music fans. Storing them on a separate hard drive (or several hard drives) is fiddly and expensive, but still cheaper than a year's Spotify membership.

Unlike that student who had thousands of MP3s he's never listened to, I have a job. This means most of my music listening is done either commuting or at work. So I find the download card very important.

Of the 3 albums I bought last week, I've played the one without a download card the least. If I really loved that album I'd have digitised it so I could play it more. Which reminds me, sometimes the album really isn't very good, which is the only time I don't use the download card.

It's worth labels using quality as a metric - did the unsuccessful albums have a lower download rate? If so, they might just not be very good. The buyers have spoken.

What's never mentioned is that a lot of CDs come with download cards. This isn't so weird when you remember that a lot of people use laptops without CD drives. The CD is about the same price as the download, so they may as well have a CD for back up purposes, and because they want a physical object.

I don't know what the answer to this problem is. I know for sure that if labels stop making download cards then the saving won't be passed on to the buyer.

I do know that a centralised streaming service like Spotify isn't the answer for me. Free access to the album on a streaming service for vinyl buyers might work.

Free download at point of purchase from the label, which Numero Group do, doesn't work unless you live in the same country. You know about overseas postage rates, right?

And the answer is definitely not 'fill in this postcard with all of your details then pay for a stamp and post it to us' which Rough Trade tried in 2006:


  1. Downloads are dead. Most music fans are switching to streaming. £120 not only to listen to music you already own, but all the music you don't own and lots of great playlists to help that discovery.

    1. Serious question: do you work for Spotify? Your comment sounds like an advert for that service. The music industry would love it if downloads were dead. They'd make a lot more money if people stopped downloading illegally.

  2. Speaking as someone who still walks around with an MP3 player stuffed with MP3s (and indeed has been building an ever-growing library of them for over a decade), vinyl + mp3 is pretty much perfection, and the thought of record labels dropping download cards from their releases fills me with horror.

    Currently, there's little more depressing (in music purchasing terms, at least) than surveying a new release from a label that I know doesn't provide d/l cards, wondering whether I should buy a copy I can listen to at home on the nice speakers, or one I can listen to out and about on headphones, because an option that allows me to do both is *not allowed*.

    Streaming from my POV is worse than useless - not simply because I'm an embittered technophobe with very particular ideas re: ownership of my music - but simply because I believe streaming services are not, and by their very nature can never be, comprehensive enough in their selection to not drive me crazy.

    If, over the course of a day pounding pavements & catching trains, I find myself with a yen to listen to, say, a demo by my friend's band, followed by The Beatles, and a tape of Arfican electr omusic I downloaded from a blog in 2008 in quick succession -- well, a Spotify subscription just ain't gonna cut it, frankly.

    Even sticking to relatively mainstream stuff, attempts to investigate the work of a particular non-contemporary artist via Spotify seem liable to conclude with one fairly iffy, non-representative album going round and round, leading younger/more impatient listeners to write said artist off as a waste of time, in a manner that proves damaging for all parties.

    In fact it is this in particular that put me off Spotify right from the word go - how anyone can live with this kind of "no man, you want to listen to THIS album, oh, wait, they don't have it.." crap for more than five minutes I just can't fathom...

    Well, getting ranty now, so in conclusion: give me a d/l card or give me death!

    I mean, c'mon, I know times are hard, but how much does it cost a label to generate a code for each one of those *bloody great vinyl LPs* they just happily paid to manufacture? Pennies, I'm guessing. And if they really can't stump up for that anymore, why not just put the damn thing up on Zippyshare? I mean, if nobody cares about mp3s anymore and everyone's streaming for 00000.1p per play, what's the worst that can happen?

    Right, definitely ranty now. Definitely finishing. : )

    1. Spotify is ideal for a certain type of music fan - someone who doesn't want physical artefacts and is smug they only pay £120 a year for all the music they want. What the first commenter to this post doesn't understand is that if no one buys the physical artefacts then there won't be nearly so much new music to listen to. Some music fans are happy with the same old songs and maybe lack a curiosity or thirst for the new underground. Fine in a way, but Spotify is only one answer to the question 'how do we get people to pay for music', and it's not an answer that suits many fans or musicians.

      What MP3 player do you use? Since my ipod died, I've really missed out.