"The only cases I know of where something is released for download-only with no ability to buy a CD (or LP or 45-single) because none were printed, would be very-indie self-made albums and special one-off singles"
I'm seeing a much bigger drop off in popular music. I assume younger buyers are the most likely to purchase MP3s and forego CDs entirely. Tom is correct that a lot of indie stuff and one-off singles are download-only, though I wouldn't go so far as to say "very-indie." And unfortunately this is the stuff that's the most "collectible."
This year (oops, I mean, last year) there was a definite shift - and I'm wondering if labels have a formula - i.e., we don't expect this artists to sell over x copies, so we'll just release MP3s. Conversely, artists who have very high sales figures are more likely to have several versions of albums released (deluxe ed., etc.). I was just notified by a publicist that the forthcoming album by conscious rap artist Talib Kweli will be "digital only in North America - all formats the rest of the world." That was a huge blow as normally I would collect all of his albums. More and more of the music I would normally purchase for the archives is not available to me since 1.) libraries can't legally download from iTunes, Amazon, etc. and 2.) we lack the infrastructure.
Archives of African American Music and Culture
2805 E. 10th Street, Suite 180
Bloomington, IN 47408
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