What does it mean when a “traditional” record store “sells” downloads?


Yesterday I was pottering around FYE in Kingston scanning the “New Releases” display and came across the above (click the image to see it blown up). It’s a slim-line CD case with a folded piece of paper in it. There is no disc in the box and no barcode on the card. The front of the card has the (obscured) full title of the album and Earl Sweatshirt’s name on it. The back has a basic tracklist, copyright information and little else.

I asked the manager what it all meant. No artwork, no disc, no barcode. She explained that the store has a machine which burns CDs on demand. So I could wait a few moments and wait for the CD to be ready for me. There was no price on the display and I omitted to ask. The website mentioned on the back, www.mixandburn.com, forwards to store.playanywhere.com From there we can see that burning the whole disc would come to $14.70 before tax and shipping. I read over the Terms of Use and there is no mention, as far as I can see, of what resale rights you have to the CD burned for you. When you get a compilation delivered you also have a locker in the cloud filled with the same songs on mp3. As with all other mp3 “stores”, you have no rights to these songs, of course.

The actual physical copies of the CD (to which buyers will have first sale rights) will be in stores on April 14th. The list price appears to be $11.99. Amazon has it pre-order for $11.96, Barnes and Noble for $10.92 and it’ll likely be less at your finer local independent record stores.

So why would I “buy” a burned CD with no attendant rights for $14.70 when I can get a real disc with real artwork for less and actually have the right of first sale?