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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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Sonos Wireless Music Player

May 15, 2006

Download Arbitrage with eMusic
by David Harrell
Download Arbitrage with eMusic
There's an arbitrage opportunity available to eMusic subscribers, albeit one that violates the subscription agreement (and is probably illegal to boot). After a lunchtime conversation with co-workers that concluded with memories of a bad cover band with a repertoire of exactly three songs, my friend Randy remarked that he would like to download one third of the band's set -- "The Girl From Ipanema" as sung by Astrud Gilberto on the Getz/Gilberto album.

I told him the track was probably available from eMusic. Randy, who just canceled his eMusic subscription, then speculated that I probably had a few unused downloads for the month that I might be willing to, uh, share. No problem, I said, provided he was willing to pay a slight markup over my cost...

In theory, a 40-downloads-a-month eMusic subscriber is paying just under 25 cents a track, so selling one of those downloads to a non-subscriber for 75 cents yields a healthy return. For the buyer, it's cheaper than a single download from iTunes, plus the eMusic download is an mp3 that can be played on virtually any portable player, with no DRM to hamper the file. And you can get your eMusic cost-per-track down to around 22 cents by opting for a 90-a-month plan or pre-paying for a year with eMusic.

I'd bet there are at least a few folks out there who are informally "sharing" an eMusic subscription with a friend, though I doubt anyone's gone so far as to follow the plan outlined above. If you want really cheap downloads you've always got the option of the different file sharing systems and it seems like a lot of hassle to make a half a buck a song by setting up your own download service to sell tracks to your friends.

Still, this scheme would give artists and record companies the same revenue they're currently receiving via eMusic sales and it would provide customers who might want the occasional eMusic track access to service without having to pay for an ongoing subscription. And unlike an all-you-can-eat restaurant, where the restaurant's bottom line would be destroyed by diners "sharing" a meal, from an accounting standpoint eMusic is indifferent to whether or not a subscriber maxes out each month. That's because eMusic pays a set percentage of its subscription revenue each month, so the amount paid to record companies artists is the same no matter now many tracks each subscriber downloads in a given month. (More details here.) Though it would hurt the bottom line of everyone involved if it ultimately resulted in fewer eMusic subscriptions.

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    THE LAYAWAYS

    Out Now -- "Maybe Next Year" -- The New Holiday Album:

    <a href="http://thelayaways.bandcamp.com/album/maybe-next-year">Joy To The World by The Layaways</a>

    "This is a sweet treat, deliciously musical without being overbaked for mass media consumption." -- Hyperbolium

    "Perfect listening to accompany whatever holiday preparations you may be making today." -- Bag of Songs


    O Christmas Tree - free mp3 lyrics and song details
    Away In A Manger - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, iTunes, Amazon MP3, or Bandcamp. Listen to free streams at Last.fm.



    album cover art from The Space Between

    <a href="http://thelayaways.bandcamp.com/album/the-space-between">Keep It To Yourself by The Layaways</a>

    "...about as melodic and hooky as indie pop can get." -- Absolute Powerpop

    "Their laid-back, '60s era sounds are absolutely delightening." -- 3hive

    "...melodic, garage-influenced shoegaze." -- RCRD LBL

    Where The Conversation Ends - free mp3
    January - free mp3
    Keep It To Yourself - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, iTunes, Amazon MP3, or CD Baby, stream it at Last.fm or Napster.



    album cover art from We've Been Lost

    <a href="http://thelayaways.bandcamp.com/album/weve-been-lost">Silence by The Layaways</a>

    "The Layaways make fine indie pop. Hushed vocals interweave with understated buzzing guitars. The whole LP is a revelation from the start." -- Lost Music

    "Catchy Guided by Voices-like rockers who lay it on sweetly and sincerely, just like Lionel Richie." -- WRUV Radio

    Silence - free mp3 lyrics and song details
    The Long Night - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, Amazon MP3, or iTunes, stream it at Last.fm, Napster, or Rhapsody.



    album cover art from More Than Happy

    "These are songs that you want to take home with you, curl up with, hold them close -- and pray that they are still with you when you wake up." -- The Big Takeover

    Let Me In - free mp3
    Ocean Blue - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, Amazon MP3, or iTunes, stream it at Last.fm, Napster, or Rhapsody.

    More Layaways downloads:

    download the Layaways at eMusic download the Layaways at iTunes

    the layaways website