Music first went commercially digital in 1982 with the pressing of “The Visitors” CD by ABBA, but it still came in a tangible physical package. With the advent of the mp3, music has become disconnected from physical formats, but many bands seeking to differentiate themselves are now coming up with novel ways of packaging their tunes…
Something Worth Buying
These days you really need to give music fans a compelling reason to buy your songs; because everyone can distribute mp3s worldwide in an instant, it takes a bit more effort to create perceived value that will entice fans to whip out their credit cards.
Fortunately (!), economies of scale have brought many consumer goods to an unprecedented level of affordability, such that it is possible to sell your album on a USB stick, t-shirt, mug or umbrella and still come out with a profit.
Added Value Tunes
As a fairly extreme example of using a novel physical format as a marketing gimmick, the band Innerpartysystem released their single ‘Don’t Stop’ as a 7 inch record made from dark chocolate. Providing it is kept at a cool enough temperature, the band claim that the single is actually playable on a standard turntable.
Releasing on standard vinyl is still a neat idea (although hardly unusual), but Cheap Trick decided to resurrect a less long-lived format when releasing their album ‘The Latest’ – to wit, the 8-track cartridge. If you have a player for this archaic format, then you will probably relish the opportunity to get some new music into it.
The Complete Package
On a more practical note, it is a fairly trivial matter to include an mp3 download code with a product such as a t-shirt, and it certainly provides a punter with a tangible incentive to purchase. Even if they aren’t sure about risking their money on your album, a nicely designed t-shirt may be worth the spend in itself, and you can pitch the sale as ‘buy a t-shirt and get a free copy of our album’ or alternatively ‘buy our album and get a free t-shirt’.
For an interesting run-down of ten ways in which musicians are adapting physical sales to the digital age, check out this article on Wired, which includes Max Tundra releasing an album as a can of Kosher chicken soup, Mogwai’s music box and the delightful Buddha Machine…