Digital Audio Insider -- the economics of music and other digital content

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Digital Audio Insider is David Harrell's blog about the economics of music and other digital content. I write from the perspective of a musican who has self-released four albums with the indie rock band the Layaways.

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April 24, 2006

Breakdown of Download Sales 2
by David Harrell
Breakdown of Download Sales, Part II
Last week, this post listed the percentage breakdown of digital sales for independent artists and labels distributed by CD Baby. A similar chart below gives the sales breakdown for my own band on a percentage basis.

One caveat, though: Unlike a release on a major label or a well-known indie label (Merge, etc.), which will appear on its official Tuesday release date (if not sooner), music distributed via CD Baby trickles slowly into the different download stores. That's because CD Baby sends the sound files on hard drives after they've been received and processed by CD Baby, and in some cases it takes a while before a hard drive with new material is delivered to a particular store. And once an album gets to a particular store, it can take weeks -- if not months -- for it to show up for sale.

It's a minor frustration when you're waiting for your album to appear in iTunes or eMusic, but I'm still pleased with the CD Baby experience. And much (most?) of the delay is due to the fact that -- as a group -- these relatively unknown releases no doubt fall far down on the priority list for the download stores.

So this chart is based on varying sales periods for the different stores. (That's the case for the aggregate CD Baby chart as well, but I'm assuming the effects of time-period differences average out somewhat for the overall chart.)

Total Download Sales for the Layaways
Apple iTunes58.74%
iTunes Europe1.31%
iTunes Canada1.11%
iTunes UK0.68%
LoudEye 0.52%

As in the overall chart, iTunes represents the majority of our digital sales so far, with nearly 62% of our sales coming from the various iTunes stores. But our music is doing much better in eMusic than the overall average for CD Baby-distributed sales. And that 21.58% figure for eMusic is based solely on the sales of our first disc. Our second release wasn't available on eMusic until early this year. Based on subsequent chart activity, I'm guessing the eMusic percentage will rise a bit when these sales show up.

I'll save the "song downloads vs. streams" breakdown for a separate post, but it's safe to say that the bulk of the dollars are coming from downloads, not streams. We've had a fair amount of streaming activity, but the per-song payout we've received (.2 to 2 cents per song stream) is tiny compared to the single-song-download payouts (around 20 cents for eMusic up to 70 cents for iTunes). At the lowest stream payout, it'd take 350 plays to equal to the pay for a single iTunes download. (It looks like that .2 cents rate is no more, however. I believe the lowest rate is now one cent per stream.)

Finally, there are few stores where we've definitely had sales (based on chart placements and song rankings) but have yet to receive payment. Wal-Mart (supplied by Liquid Digital Media ) is one. But I noticed that the overall CD Baby chart also showed no Wal-Mart/Liquid Digital Media income as of February 2006, so I'm assuming that Wal-Mart pays infrequently or perhaps has a fairly large minimum sales requirement before it cuts a check.


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