Digital media cards, more commonly known as mp3 cards, are gaining popularity with independent bands as a way to spread music among fans. The cards contain a URL and usually a code, which the fan uses to download the mp3 (or other audio format) files of the band’s music. Some bands have completely stopped selling CDs, preferring the convenience of the mp3 cards.
If your band sells a lot of merchandise, you should consider whether MP3 cards should replace CDs in your merchandise kit. Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of selling MP3 cards rather than CDs at live shows.
1. Price – MP3 cards are by nature cheaper than CDs, at least materially, since you’re just paying for a card as opposed to an entire physical product. Most MP3 card services do charge a monthly or yearly fee, however, which is something to consider; even so, with the cost of the membership, DiscRevolt, one popular independent mp3 card seller, charges about $210 for 250 cards, with the subscription, and with substantial discounts at higher quantities. CDs will almost certainly cost more than $1 each unless an extremely large quantity (over 1,000) is ordered, or artwork is sacrificed.
2. Usability – While nearly everyone in the Western world knows how to operate a CD player, you’ll still find quite a few people that are fairly Internet illiterate and unable to successfully log on to a website and use a code. You’ll have to take a look at your band’s fans and see whether the MP3 card will scare them off; if your fans are mainly young, they may actually buy more songs from you just to get the MP3 cards, since the cars are fairly interesting technology. Bands with older fans may legitimately worry about whether the cards will scare away sales. In any case, if bands choose to sell MP3 cards, they should be careful to explain to their fans that the cards are very easy to use (and they certainly are, by the way).
3. Portability – One of the big advantages of the mp3 cards is their portability. Many fans will refrain from buying a CD simply because they don’t want to carry an album around all night. With MP3 cards, which are often the size of credit cards, that’s not an issue.
4. Physical product – Finally, you’ve got to consider whether you want to offer a physical product. For many bands, the death of the physical sound artifact is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century–for others, it’s liberating, allowing their music to reach new people and rise to new heights. Where do you stand?
Does your band prefer MP3 cards or CDs for live show sales? Post in the comments section below.