Why have a Product Information Database?

The very simple answer to this question is that it is a response to reader request. I get a large number of inquiries asking "How do I buy this?" and the direct motivation for the present automated service is to make it easier for people to find this information directly. I do not mean to say that I begrudge those inquiries, and I will go on happily answering them, but it becomes a definite workload for me. So I am hoping to alleviate that, plus make it easier for the reader.

The latter is a big issue... by providing direct links to individual product information at online retailers, allowing readers to add directly to a shopping basket for purchase there, it becomes very easy indeed. I know first-hand that it can be difficult to search for and find many of these releases in the big online stores, because they are simply not setup to feature this kind of music. In fact, it takes me a definite period of time to compile these product links, and it can be frustrating, especially when unsure if something is available.

This is of course why the online stores think of having affiliate relationships. They can get business directly from a website which features a more specific subject. So it is good for them. They also pay the referring site a fee of approximately 5-10% (it can be a couple of percent one way or the other depending on the specifics, but CDs do not generally get the higher percentages offered to some types of products) for sending them that business. For the consumer, this is entirely transparent. The retailer will regularly send me a check based on what is purchased. Unfortunately, the fact that money becomes involved is a mixed blessing, and I feel obligated to discuss it in more detail....

The first, and most important, thing is that this is still a non-commercial, non-profit website. The Medieval Music & Arts Foundation is now a real legal entity, and any money which comes in will be used to first defray the costs of maintaining this website and then to finance other projects if there is an excess. I do not want to get ahead of myself on the latter, but rest assured that the money will not go into my pocket. The most it will do is reduce the often substantial bills I pay in connection with this site. All of this will be handled by the laws of public non-profit corporations, as well as the highest personal ethics.

If you do not trust me, or feel ambivalent in some way, feel free not to follow the affiliate links but to continue using the remainder of the site. I want to be very forthcoming on this issue, and the links which could allow us to be paid will be clearly segregated from the majority of the site. They exist for your convenience only, and I do not let the amount of the fee or other promotional considerations affect the choices. I believe my years of public service on the internet offer good evidence of my integrity in these matters.

I want to conclude with a more specific discussion of the affiliate relationship. The reason such a formal relationship is necessary is that these sites do not have the technical functionality to link to specific product information while maintaining a shopping basket for the individual reader unless it is done under the heading of the affiliates program. The latter is where the business incentive exists, and this incentive likewise makes it less likely that they will change the format of their links and make this database useless. These are real concerns, and necessitate the formal relationship. In this way, the sites have some obligation to make these links work. I think we all know how often things change on the Internet otherwise.

At that point, money will be paid, and either way it requires some trust in my integrity to believe that I will dispose of it properly. From my perspective, establishing the non-profit corporation (which I wanted to do anyway to help us with visibility and expanding in other directions) allows for the possibility of other exciting activities. If I donated the money directly to another non-profit of my choice, that would be the end of it, but you would still need to believe I was doing it. I do not want anyone to believe that I am being greedy or unscrupulous, so I hope the situation is entirely clear.


Todd M. McComb
Last updated: March 1999

To some explanatory notes on this service.

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