Right, what I'm about to say sounds a little bit disrespectful: I don't think anybody on YouTube values physical media as much as they should. (When I say "anybody" I mean people putting out music.)
We have some musicians on YouTube signed to DFTBA that put their music out through slip cases; some that print CDs on Kunaki, where you only get a single sheet insert but no hassle of self-shipping; some people that print and ship their own CDs, still only including a single insert but netting a higher profit than Kunaki would provide; and some musicians who keep their music specific to iTunes and don't even HAVE a physical offering.
Within DFTBA, there are only two exceptions to this; Chameleon Circuit and Trock On!, both pretty in their full jewel cases and with rich colour booklets. (Alan wanted to put Trock On! in a slip case, and I personally paid the extra to make them jewels, because I thought it would be worth it.)
Outside of DFTBA, the only musician I know of that has an equal quality standard for his CDs is Tom Milsom, who ships his first album Awkward Ballads For The Easily Pleased himself and has a jewel case and full colour lyrics booklet.
It is my opinion that people who make the effort to buy the physical CD, waiting for days to get it shipped out when they could have just got it instantly on iTunes, deserve something more than a single insert or a slip case. I'm not a fan of slip cases because they don't have any kind of booklet, not even a one-sheet insert like Kunaki; they look rubbish on my shelf because they're too thin, so I can't see from the side what they are; they're literally just a holder for the music. Well I have one of those. I have my computer. If you've seen the cover art online, you don't get anything new out of a slip case. I think Kunaki printings, crude though they can sometimes appear, still look better than a slip case on a shelf.
The experience, in my opinion, is worth SO much. Getting the CD, opening it and seeing the CD artwork for the first time; pulling out the booklet and reading the thank-yous and and the lyrics, and seeing the little nuances inside the booklet that you didn't get online, cos they only showed the cover art. Being able to put it on your shelf and see that you own that thing and if people come over and see your shelf and ask what Chameleon Circuit is, you can pull it out and go through it all again, sharing the coolness of DFTBA with people. If anyone sees Dave Days, the Volume One comp or any of our other slip releases on a shelf, they're not gonna bother pulling them all out to see what they are.
(I haven't covered digipacks cos I don't mind those as much, because they're covered in artwork. I still miss the insert, though.)
I think jewel cases should be standardised across the full range of CDs that we ship. Obviously jewel cases cost more than slip cases, so there's a bit less profit, but I think it would balance out; if jewel cases and rich full booklets are standard policy, DFTBA will develop a reputation not only for quality music but for quality products. It'll be worth making the effort to wait a bit and get the CD, cos you know it'll be a full experience when it arrives. And that means more people buying CDs, which makes up for the extra cost. At the moment I think the product range is confusing when someone buys four CDs and they receive a jewel case, two slip cases and a digipack. It suggests there's some kind of difference in quality or production, and there isn't.
In an extreme scenario, DFTBA couldn't exist without physical sales. I know how to put my own music up on iTunes, and I could do it myself; aside from the promotion and the lovely feeling of community we have here, the main reason for releasing my music through the label is so that I can have gorgeous physical products released and shipped on my behalf. That's easily worth DFTBA's cut of the cake without any additional promotion at all. If customers only cared about iTunes, artists would just put their music on iTunes themselves and cut DFTBA out, and we'd go out of business. The physical sales is where we thrive. We need to create quality physical releases so that people make the effort to buy more. (And from a stats point of view, we find out how well CDs are selling instantly if we're selling physicals; iTunes takes a couple months. We're a lot more aware when we're selling real stock.)
The reason I'm writing this is to find out what you think. In my opinion, jewel cases have an unparalleled professionalism; over 90% of CDs in a British music shop are all jewels (although Alan tells me it's a little more mixed stateside). Have you ever thought about this before? Would you buy So Jokes again if it was re-released in a jewel case? Cos I know I would. How important do you think products are, and how well do you think we're getting it right? Am I just over-exaggerating?
Thoughts, comments, discussion. Let's roll, guys :)
EDIT: I forgot to mention that Ed, Raven and Chameleon Circuit all have tracks which are exclusive to the physical CD, and I think that's a great idea. Parrot Stories has a hidden track which is physical-exclusive.
EDIT: People in comments are saying they prefer slip cases because they save space, and people are moving to digital formats and don't need all the space that a jewel case takes up. I completely agree, but then my question becomes - why do you buy the CD at all? Help me out in comments :)