it's always sad to see the passing of a music stalwart, particularly when you're interested in music that doesn't allow too many stalwarts to survive. so let's all bow our heads for a moment of silence to remember that manifold records, purveyor and distributor of fine music since 1992.
sadly, vince the manifold guy has decided to put his distribution service/ online music store to sleep, citing the various difficulties in maintaining a distributorship in an age when downloading and filesharing are rampant.
i have to say that in my own experience, downloading does not hinder my desire to buy music. in fact, downloading albums is one of the main ways i discover new music, which i then go out and buy. if i don't buy it, it basically means i either wasn't going to buy it, or i was going to get it based on a one minute clip and be disappointed and probably end up selling it to a second hand shop. i realise that not everyone is scrupulous about this, but i know a lot of people who are and who will buy, as long as they can afford it.
in my opinion, i think that the greater threat to distributors is the direct access that artists themselves now have to their public. after all, buying direct from the artist eliminates a middle man who needs to make money.
the unfortunate thing is that a good distributor is one of the best places to find out about new music you might not have heard of. you may not know the names of the bands you want to track down, but if you can read through a good catalogue of them, there's a good chance you'll find some descriptions that point you in the right direction.
even with the passing of the store, though, there are a couple of reasons to be happy. first, manifold will continue to exist as a label, although there are no releases scheduled for the immediate future. second, in an effort to run down inventory, they are having an absolutely mad sale. lots of really obscure goodies, priced at around $7.