As a long-time Paul Simon fan, I am presumably the core market that the album is aimed at. And it seems that the marketing strategy for reaching us is: If You Live Outside The USA, Screw You.
If you’re American, you’d be surprised what a common strategy that is. If you’re British, it won’t be news to you.
But really, what on earth can the label be thinking here? How can it be to their commercial advantage to prevent Brits from buying the CD? I know I complain about this kind of thing a lot (DVD Regions, inability to buy MP3s from America, unusable store credit, more on unusability of store credit), but this time around I truly am completely, completely unable to come up with a mental model of what the label is hoping to achieve.
Like every other Paul Simon fan in Britain, my choices are: (A) pre-order the CD or MP3s from Amazon.co.uk and wait for June, when they will actually become available; (B) buy the physical CD from Amazon.com, and wait for it to be shipped across the Atlantic; or (C) torrent the MP3s.
What do they think is going to happen?
Being the upstanding citizen that I am, I have gone for option (A+C): I’ve pre-ordered the CD from Amazon.co.uk, and rather than wait eight weeks for it to arrive, I have torrented the MP3s which I am now happily listening to. When the CD arrives, I’ll shove it on the CD shelf, probably still in its shrink-wrap, quite possibly never to be opened.
But now think of all the other people who, because of the unavailability of the CD in the UK, will also torrent the MP3s. Will they all buy the CD when it becomes available? Surely not all of them — so that’s a whole bunch of lost sales, right there.
And now think of everyone who torrents these MP3s as the only way to get the album without waiting, whether or not they subsequently buy the CD. How many of them are new to the world of torrents? How many of them will, thanks to the label’s bizarre policy, have been introduced to the world of free, easily accessible content for the first time? Is that what the label wants? Is it? Huh? Huh? Is it?
As I wrote once before:
In the end, it won’t be the greed and irresponsibility of listeners that brings the music industry down in great waves of “piracy”; it will be the industry’s own astonishingly consistent stupidity.
Not many of us will be weeping bitter tears when that happens.
Update (the next day)
There’s some good discussion of this on Hacker News.