Much like its namesake, Amoeba Records has proved quite adaptable while remaining essentially the same within a rapidly changing market.
The company has always done mail-order sales so as to accomodate those unable to make the trek to crate dig and has long had an internet presence which it used to list the schedule for free live performances at their two-story store in LA and at their sprawling (former bowling-alley) outpost in the Haight—but in fall of 2012 they began offering digital downloads.
Yes, that's right, Amoeba Records has gone digital. They currently have the catalogs of different indendent labels available (no major labels as of now) and recently began digitizing the rare records in their Vinyl Vault. The latter effort is massive in scale, employing some 200 Amoeba employees in a six year plan that has cost them nearly 11 million USD to carefully rip, catalogue and upload thousands upon thousands of rare and out-of-print LPs, 78s and 45s. Customers can stream a sample of a track before making a purchase. The digital files are priced to reflect the audio quality of the files: 78¢ per MP3, 80¢ for Lossless M4As and $1.50 for WAVs.
The best part of it all is that Amoeba has vowed to do it all legally, making every effort to track down the original performers (or their descendants) and/or the labels involved. In cases where doing so is simply not possible, Amoeba has set up separate accounts to hold funds in escrow until the rights-holders claim their earnings.
Intentionally or not, Amoeba has presented a glaring flaw in how copyright law applies to copies made from these sorts of early recordings. According to the letter of current copyright law, Amoeba is in big trouble. Virtually none of the recordings they are offering are in the public domain, as the rights formerly held by many "lost" musicians have reverted to whichever record company conglomerate currently holds those rights.
It will be interesting to see how the RIAA and associated parties react to Amoeba's move.
As of now there are only about a thousand tracks available but the team at Amoeba is uploading about ten to fifteen per day.
Vinyl just got a little closer to forever.