"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. 


Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Archives of African American Music and Culture
Indiana University
2805 E. 10th Street, Suite 180
Bloomington, IN 47408
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(812) 855-7530