Im trying to share with you some of the information I am gathering as I go through a music release in 2014. Things have changed since my last release in 2007 with my previous band Earthtone. Last time around download cards were just coming out, and I could feel that the CD era was falling to pieces.
Here are a few of my tips, tricks and pointers when looking into download cards, which has all come about simply because I have been doing this research for myself and my upcoming release. I wanted to share what I have found and hope that someone will comment below if there is a better option that I have overlooked. As we all know the internet is an endless melting pot of information, so I may have missed something great! Please help me out if I did.
Before I get into this, one quick note. I looked everywhere for iTunes exclusive cards. Download cards strictly for use on the most popular music retailer in the known universe. Mostly all of these options listed below allow you to use their site to host the music for their specific download cards. Your fans need to visit the download card site to redeem their download and then put it into their iTunes library. (Bummer)
Primary Download Card Companies
Dropcards - this seems to be one of the most popular options online. The design and custom options are awesome, the pricing is decent. Depending on how many upgrades, and of course bulk ordering, this can be affordable. Foiling, Die Cuts, and even their very special "seed cards" are some really cool options they have available.
Procards - These guys offer great analytics, along with all the regular options for premium cards and upgrades. They also have a highly affordable "print your own" option which is great for DIY'ers out there who don't have a huge budget. You can print the codes yourself and distribute the homemade download cards yourself! This is especially helpful if you have a good printing company you use. You can print some good cards for less cost and simply pay for the codes and information needed.
CDBaby - I think they actually use DiscMakers to do all of their physical materials. If not they have download cards and various options for you. If you go directly to the DiskMakers site you can see all of their options for CD's, duplication, blank printed CDs, download cards etc. They use a lossless audio FLAC file or high res MP3. One of the best options they provide are download wrist bands for CD release parties or shows. You can charge for the entry and the fan will be able to take home their wrist band and redeem their music.
Bandcamp - band camp doesn't actually have download cards. They offere download codes that you can purchase and put a nice simple link to a landing pad where people can download your music. They have simple options for once click download, and you can tweak the options slightly. This is another budget way to get your music out there at your shows. You can print these codes out or send them via a single click email. If you already use band camp this is no brainer I think.
Card Included - Card Included is a self-serve download card service from the makers of Limited Run. Great support and a very clean and concise interface. They provide a custom landing pad for your downloads to be redeemed. After paying, they instantly send you a pdf of your cards and they also include a text file if you want to email a code to someone. Upload a zip file or lossless audio (user chooses the format)
Die Cut - You can pay some extra coin (if you have it) to get a specially shaped download card. It can be any shape you provide, for instance it might be the shape of a guitar, or grammy or something cool to make it more buzz worthy.
Seed Cards - This is offered by Dropcards. The reason I love this little option is it does not create any trash! In fact, its actually made of recycled junk mail and embedded with wildflower seeds! How cool is that?
Foiling - You all remember the hockey or baseball trading cards that "upper deck" used to have with the shiny, metallic finish on them? Flashy, bright and full of character, this option can really set you apart from your contemporaries.
All the links above will take you directly to the website for pricing and more information. I hope this was helpful, it was a laborious process to go through just 5 companies to compare.
Stay well until next week