As a vinyl collector, I've always held Sub Pop in high regard. Not only does the iconic Seattle-based label release a lot of LPs, it doesn't charge an arm and a leg for them--I've boughtsome records from Sub Pop bands for the same price or less than the CD costs.
Last week, Sub Pop began selling MP3 downloads, and its catalog has rapidly expanded, now encompassing more than 200 full-length albums. The price is $9.90 and the format is 192kbps MP3, meaning they can be played on any application or device, unlike downloads from iTunes or the Zune Marketplace.
No single-song downloads yet, and these album downloads are not exclusives--the latest Kinski record, Down Below It's Chaos, is not only offered in higher-quality AAC format (and DRM-free) on iTunes, but it's only $8.91. But the Sub Pop download store will get more exciting, with rare, out-of-print titles becoming exclusive downloads on the site.
This strategy won't work for most of the major labels, as listeners probably aren't even aware which label holds their favorite bands. But for indie labels with strong brands that connote a certain sound--think Matador, K Records, or Constellation--this could be a smart way to do business.