To avoid asking further questions that all seem to end in the same… what is the probability that digital releases will be considered as a reason for a revision to either the MB policy or structure? If this is a possibility or is a sure thing, great, I would love to provide info for the admins to consider. If not, that would just be good to know so it is clear.
Problem, as mostly explained before, is that a digital release has many aspects, just like physical releases do. But they are different. Just like there are different types of vinyl releases than CD releases. The barcode, although is usually required, is not too useful in differentiating between different versions of the same release. Many times, the barcode is the same for multiple releases, and sometimes, the barcode is changed simply because it is at a different store, even if the actual files are identical. Catalog number is not really used the same. On a physical release, the catalog number helps identify a specific release and its part number of sorts at that label or record company. That in digital is somewhat similar to what you can do with the ISRC along with the vendor (the label but not the label MB wants) and possibly also the store ID for the release.
That said, if I load up Picard for example to identify my release, it shows me options differentiated by country, catalog, label, etc. None of this is really useful at all on digital releases. Assuming my release has a barcode, as an average user, I will likely never know what it is. The label I will not know, I will know the vendor+ISRC. The country I might know, depending on the store. So this basically makes all digital releases the same, which is wrong on many levels. If I want to tag my files in Picard, doing this to legit purchased digital files will lessen/weaken my metadata.
I totally understand if MB has no interest in this. Digital releases have been around for about 20 years, I know that iTunes started in 2001 so that provides a good estimate of a starting point of a real service. We even have retailers specializing in specific types of digital releases, streaming sites that charge more to stream different quality releases, different file formats, encoders and containers, that all provide different sets of compatibility, etc. MB does great with CDs, I can even see if a release came with a special sticker at a certain store. Kind of pointless to me, but if I think non selfishly, that is quite impressive especially when there are images to support it. But how does one go from that sort of detail to not differentiating between a studio/production quality FLAC to a cheap MP3 file that does not even have frequency beyond 16khz? Those files are not interchangeable in their use, and I would state that a end user on the consumer side has no use for a FLAC and will not want the 16k lowpass MP3 either. If I have an iPod, I will prefer a M4A container AAC or ALAC file. If I am on Linux, I may want to avoid M4A container files as support is minimal. To the user, is this not the more critical info? That is like the difference between a CD and a cassette, not the same use.
All opinions welcome for sure, but if one of the auto-editors or admins could provide an official opinion, or preferably an official answer, that would be great. Even if it is only a statement of intended direction.