Downloading MP3's of vinyl records?
July 23, 2009 12:42 PM   Subscribe

MP3 download solutions for short-run vinyl record label?

I run a record label that releases (so far, anyway) vinyl in quantites of 100-500. I'd like to include an option for my customers to download an digital file to listen to on their iPod/etc. but googling "MP3 download card" is not helpful at all. I'm familiar with Dropcard but I'm wondering what other options are available, with an emphasis on "no-frills" as I'm on a budget (and don't currently have a day job).
posted by monkeymike to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Although I haven't used it myself, apparently Bandcamp will let you do this for free.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:48 PM on July 23, 2009

Maybe RCRD LBL? It basically hosts MP3s free for public consumption, which might not work if you just want people who buy your records to be able to download files. But honestly, once an MP3 exists at all, it's gonna be free for public consumption, so you may as well have it on your terms
posted by martens at 12:50 PM on July 23, 2009

Why not contact another record label to find out what service they use?

I know that Saddle Creek and 4AD both issue download cards.

I don't suppose you know any programmers who could whip something up for you. If you're not releasing that much music, I bet you could manage the codes on your own.

All the "big" services issue only a single code; I assume the codes vary wildly on the same release so I can't change my code of 421HG to 421HH and get another download. This must make managing all the codes quite complicated. You, however, could have one code per album and then different passwords for each copy.
posted by reductiondesign at 12:52 PM on July 23, 2009

the guys over at vinyl collective run a service named vinyl downloads. i have not used it but it has a good reputation.
posted by phil at 12:57 PM on July 23, 2009

A stopgap that I've seen from a couple labels that I buy vinyl from is just a burned cd with the mp3s on it that comes with your vinyl.
posted by klangklangston at 1:19 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

A stopgap that I've seen from a couple labels that I buy vinyl from is just a burned cd with the mp3s on it that comes with your vinyl.

Yes indeed. I imagine, given current CDR prices, it might cost you an extra 50 cents per copy at worst. Why must everything have some kind of online component these days?
posted by philip-random at 1:23 PM on July 23, 2009

Response by poster: Yes indeed. I imagine, given current CDR prices, it might cost you an extra 50 cents per copy at worst. Why must everything have some kind of online component these days?

A CD/CDR will be more expensive than a MP3 download service based on the quotes I've received. Also, the weight of the CD will increase what I spend on postage to mail a record.
posted by monkeymike at 1:39 PM on July 23, 2009

You can do this through CD Baby, at $0.99 per card in batches of 100, 200, 500, and 1000.
posted by andrewraff at 1:40 PM on July 23, 2009

just out of curiosity what prices have you been quoted? i ask because name brand cd-rs can be had for as little as 15 cents shipped. if you were willing to wait until a deal site had a sale i imagine you could get that number a lot lower.
posted by phil at 1:49 PM on July 23, 2009

how will you be mailing the records? i believe the cheapest media mail option covers packages a pound or less and a cd weighs approximately half an ounce.
posted by mailbox125 at 2:08 PM on July 23, 2009

Well, since I just took a second to look it up, the label I was thinking of was Modern Radio (, who have just started using download codes, so I can only guess it was cheaper for them in the long run. Still, it depends on your economics. A CD-R really is a negligible weight, especially if you don't bother with a case (slap it in a bag). If you're shipping through other distributors, it doesn't make much sense, but if you're running this label out of your bedroom and doing only a couple orders a week, sending out the CD-Rs means that you don't have to invest in infrastructure.

An alternate option, depending on your web hosting situation, is to either set up a password-protected page for each release and send the passwords in the packages, or to use password protected .rar files that you host.

One more thing, which depends on how you're handling the bands you represent—you may want to talk with them about how they feel about making the music available. It will be pirated, and as releasing solely on vinyl is often an option chosen by bands and labels to at least put a practical barrier between pirates and the music, you may want to discuss this with them. But since I don't know what label you've got (obviously, the conversation is different if it's, like, primarily just your music that you release) and I don't know how your contracts are worded—some explicitly prohibit alternate distribution schemes—I don't have enough information to give you better advice.

(So… what's your label?)
posted by klangklangston at 2:17 PM on July 23, 2009

A very bare-bones solution would be to just create a download page with a non-obvious URL, tag it so it's not indexed, and give your customers the URL.

There's nothing to stop them from sharing the URL with other people, but then, there's nothing stopping them from sharing the MP3s either.
posted by zombiedance at 2:38 PM on July 23, 2009

I'll tell you how I did it: I signed up for an Amazon S3 Account and installed the S3Fox Firefox extension (Amazon account and Firefox browser required). It took a little dicking around (but I'm far from Mr. Super Computer Savvy) but I can use the latter to create downloadable zip files with URLs provided by Amazon (I don't have to post anything). You can scroll down the first link for the pricing, basically there is a 10 cent per GB charge for initial transfer of the data onto Amazon's servers, a 15 cent charge per gigabyte per month for storage, and a 17 cent per GB charge for transfer of data. Those aren't minimums charges, if you upload a very small amount, for example, they will just charge you a penny. Yes, Amazon apparently has such a swell relationship with your credit card company that they can charge you one cent if they feel like it, they have done so to me many times. Anyway, setting up an album of 100 MB (which would be a long album of quite high quality files) and having 500 of them downloaded would cost something like 8 or 9 dollars. Then I just gave people the URL.

Of course you don't have any sort of digital rights management like a code to allow a download. Your rotten customers could give the code to all their friends and post it on the internet and destroy you. You could go and buy something like $150 software to prevent that. Or you could figure you're looking forward to having the problem of enough people hearing of your label via free downloads for it to hit anywhere near that ballpark of expenditure.
posted by nanojath at 3:25 PM on July 23, 2009

And yes, please share your label URL in your profile! Never turn down free promotion, man.
posted by nanojath at 3:26 PM on July 23, 2009

Dreamhost has a pretty interesting digital property model called Files Forever.
posted by Aquaman at 9:53 PM on July 23, 2009

It's kind of (ok, totally) hidden on their site, but Dropcards has a new thing that's a much simpler card. (I know you know about them, but I seriously found this cheaper card by accident...) It brings the price of each card (for a quantity of 500) down to $.25 from $.40, which is significant. My band just did these for an upcoming vinyl release, and they're neat. Excellent customer service, too.
posted by mintcake! at 11:08 PM on July 27, 2009

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