Sub Pop's considering selling merch with free album downloads, and general manager Megan Jasper told us last week that, "We used to give many of these tchotchke items away for free in an effort to entice people to pay for the music, but we're considering flipping our strategy so that people pay for the toy and receive the music for free."
It's possible the new physical incentive might be enough to drive more people into brick and mortar record stores, which would be good for business. Sonic Boom co-owner Jason Hughes is not so sure.
"I think it's a bad idea. I think that they're devaluing the music," he says. "It's too hard to merchandise posters or t-shirts. From a retail point of a record store, I don't want to re-tool because they want to start selling different things than what they've been selling for the last 20 years."
Hughes says he gets that sales are down and he understands where labels are coming from. But he thinks they're losing sight of the big picture.
"Labels are forgetting that we're in a crazy recession right out," Hughes says. "(Nobody's) buying anything. Everyone's freaking out that their sales are down right now. They just have to expect that. Get over it. I hear labels complain about it all the time. Well, we're in a different economic time. Deal with it. I think until consumers start opening their wallets, I don't know how much of a difference it's going to make as far as revenue streams go."
Sales aren't so hot at Sonic Boom's new Capitol Hill shop (1525 Melrose Ave, between Pike and Pine, near Bauhaus), either. When asked if we needed to put his shop on death watch, Hughes said: "If we didn't have a second store, yes. We're still working it out."