21st Century Label: Dischord Goes Digital

Good news for all those who've lamented the unavailability of high quality, unrestricted digital content from D.C.'s most storied independent record label. Dischord Records' catalog has been available via the iTunes store and some other online sources for a few years now, but those recordings were most often only available at relatively low 128 kbps quality, and contained all the usual DRM restrictions. Not only that, in many of those stores a Dischord track cost the same as the new single by Britney Spears, when the label has historically been all about pricing things more reasonably than major labels.

But the label just announced via their newsletter Thursday that their newly revamped website now doubles as a fully functioning online digital music store as well. And they're offering much higher quality MP3s than can be found at other sources (320 kbps), plus all tracks are DRM free.

Pricing is only $7 for almost all full albums, while single tracks can be purchased via a credits system that works out to just shy of 67 cents per song. As many labels are now doing, 12" vinyl purchased through the website will automatically allow a free digital download of the record as well. The new site also includes a media player with selected streaming content, and the label is soliciting submissions of good quality audio and video material of Dischord bands to include on the player.

Back to the pricing, some might ask, why no straightforward single-track purchasing? The label points out that significant portions of the tiny sums put up for single track sales end up going to pay credit card fees; rather than giving money away to credit card companies, better that a larger percentage goes to the artist and the label, hence the encouragement to buy in bulk. Plus, it provides incentive for people to give a shot to tracks from bands they might not have looked into otherwise.

Dischord's foray into the world of zeroes and ones was news enough that Wired picked up the story on Friday. Predictably, it was full of the usual semi-accurate or over-emphasized mass media shorthands that often turn up in articles about Dischord (calling it a "hardcore" label when the last new hardcore record they released was probably over 20 years ago, the tiresome link between the label and the Straight Edge movement, the treatment of Fugazi and Dischord as synonymous entities), but it's always nice to see locals recognized in national media. Moreover, the Wired piece demonstrates that the label has managed to come up with an innovative model for digital distribution that might serve other small labels well. Not mentioned in the article is the release strategy for the next Edie Sedgwick record, which Dischord is putting out in the fall, and which will only be released on vinyl and MP3, with an option for CD enthusiasts to download and self-print artwork for CDs they burn themselves from the MP3 downloads. The label may be just a couple years shy of entering its fourth decade, but they appear to be committed to keeping up and coexiting with the technology many claim will eventually leave traditional record labels obsolete.

Photo: Ian Buckwalter

via: dcist

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