It’s rare but sometimes shopping is actually nice. And you leave without the impression of having been screwed, laughed at, inconvenienced and treated like shit. Merge Records presented me with such a nice surprise recently. I had wanted to buy the new Spoon album for a while but our local record store preferred not to stock it for whichever reasons. But then it crossed my fingers while in Berlin recently and I had to take the LP with me.
I am used to ignoring little stickers on things as they’re usually just mindless crap. But, as I discovered retrospectively, this one was actually good news – telling me that the vinyl record includes a coupon for an MP3 download of the album (just like this spring’s CocoRosie album [cocorosie, cocorosie, cocorosie – that name is just perfect for typing!])
Packaged right with the nice and heavy vinyl I found the card with the coupon code and instructions on how to redeem it. The remarkable thing here again being that they managed to find just the right tone that gives me the impression that they just want me to enjoy the music more. And they aptly title it with a sense of humour by using the phrase
Dear honored listener which sounds like a spam e-mail.
The text goes on taking things easy:
Can you believe your good fortune? We hardly can. I hardly could either, but the download instructions – going to a simple URL and entering both the code on the card and the album’s barcode there – were simple and just worked. A few minutes later my download had finished and I could import the songs into iTunes. All very no-nonsense and optimised for my convenience.
The download also included the bonus Get Nice! EP that was shipped with the first pressing of the CD and a PDF booklet. While they managed to still be imperfect as cover art wasn’t included in the MP3 files and, strangely, one of them was lacking MP3 tags, this came pretty close to how I think things should be. No difficult subscriptions, no software lock in, no DRM crap, being polite to the customer. And of course it’s all right to put a friendly reminder to not just copy these files around along with the coupon. Wording it as
Please support our artists by encouraging your friends to buy their own copies […] will certainly communicate the message much more effectively than a blurb of legalese does.
Nice touch for the end: they put a short jingle at the very end of the record which infinitely repeats when the record has finished. Uh, and Garamond and Helvetica for the included lyrics and credits. I guess they had me right there.
Hopefully your code number only works once, or else now the entire internet can download the album for free! :-)
The site mentioned so many time that this is a one-time code and you shouldn’t cancel the download while in progress that I’m not worried about this.
Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.