This morning a mass e-mail sent out to Sufjan Stevens fans by his label, Asthmatic Kitty, started making the rounds on blogs and Twitter. It's an impassioned and somewhat naked-seeming plea
from people committed to putting out music they care about, asking their customers to consider not freeloading Stevens's next album, The Age of Adz
, or buying it for the price of a latte during Amazon's upcoming slashed-price introduction of the album. But what the letter never explains is how Amazon is able to discount the record so deeply—and why, if Asthmatic Kitty has a problem with that, it doesn't seem to be trying to scuttle the arrangement. Distribution deals are notoriously complicated, and there are a number of ways Asthmatic Kitty might have its hands tied re: the Amazon discount. In a spot-on post
for the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog, Zach Baron describes a likelier situation: that the label is trying to benefit in the short term off a deal with potentially bad long-term consequences not only for Asthmatic Kitty but for other similar labels, and it's passing its confusion over which path to take on to you, the consumer.