As to my question of whether a composer should issue three CDs at once, or space them out one a year or so, the masses have spoken, and they do not speak with one voice. The only person to unequivocally agree with my record producer about spacing them out was another composer/CD producer, Mary Jane Leach formerly of XI discs, who said
My feeling in that you should space them out, maybe six months apart. Unless they’re all very similar, it will “confuse” most critics (which one sheet takes precedence over the other?), and you might end up with nothing. Even when I ran XI, I found that if several cd’s were released at the same time, that I got less coverage than if they’d been spaced out.
Several people noted that the issue is very different in pop music than it is in (post)classical – most pop musicians are careful to space their CDs out for maximum sales. As Galen Brown pointed out,
[W]hen Radiohead released Amnesiac close on the heels of their very successful Kid A, and acknowledged that the Amnesiac songs were recorded at the same time as the Kid A songs, people assumed that Amnesiac would be more of a collection of B-sides than anything else. Personally I like Amnesiac even better than I like Kid A, though.
A slight majority recommended spacing CDs out, although Joseph Zitt noted,
Speaking as a record store guy (my day job is as classical music specialist as a large CD store in San Francisco), I know that if three CDs come in, looking like a uniform release and packaged as such, I would be quite tempted to make a display of them.
In general, however, Beth Anderson spoke for the composers in the audience:
I think you should get those CDs out as fast as possible. You could be hit by a bus and they might not happen at all. Life is short and CDs take a long time to finish and a very long time to let people know about them.
Cumulative average message: put CDs out when you can and don’t worry too much about control, unless you’re really famous enough to influence reception.