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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June 16, 2006

Real Audio for Amazon Subscription Service?
by David Harrell
Real Audio for Amazon Subscription Service?
I really should stop whining about's stocking policies for self released CDs, as I did in this post from a couple weeks back. For someone in a relatively unknown, non-touring band, every single CD sale is more than welcome, wherever it comes from, even if keeping Amazon in stock is a minor hassle. And, as Glenn pointed out in a comment to that post, Amazon does have the biggest reach. If something's not available from Amazon, there's no guarantee that an individual customer's going to buy it elsewhere. Further, while other online retailers are selling the disc for approximately the same price, for anyone already paying for the "Amazon Prime" free shipping program, Amazon ends up being the cheapest option, at least for physical CDs.

But I'll offer one last gripe about Amazon's "just in time" inventory system. After ordering a single replacement copy of our "More Than Happy" disc on May 30th, Amazon followed up a second order for another single disc, six days later, before the previous order even showed as being in stock. And then the remaining Amazon copy of our second disc sold, and I'm still waiting on the replacement order for that one...

Anyway, complaints aside, I did notice a couple of interesting things on Amazon recently. The first makes me wonder if's announced music subscription service might use the dreaded Real Audio format. While doesn't provide audio samples for self released albums and stuff on smaller indie labels, for some reason Amazon now has Real Audio samples for all tracks from our first disc. But unlike mainstream releases, there are no samples using the Amazon format or Windows Media. As best as I can remember, Amazon never kept any of the discs it ordered from me -- all have shown up as available stock. So the audio files are coming from somewhere else. Maybe as part of whatever Amazon is cooking up for its subscription service?

Also, I noticed a few months back that had removed the links to free mp3 tracks from its album pages, though the files are still available via the free download section. I wondered if Amazon didn't want the free files competing with its planned music subscriptions or individual download sales. But when searching for our albums via last week, I noticed that the Amazon pages served up DID include the associated free mp3s for the first and second Layaways discs. Same thing across the board for all of the other albums I checked from both starting points: No free mp3s listed for the Arcade Fire's Funeral if you start your search from, but you'll see a free mp3 for "Neighborhood #3" if you start your search from No free mp3s shown for Guided By Voice's "Human Amusements At Hourly Rates" collection if you start your search at while three free mp3s show up on the page if you start at the Border's URL. (UPDATE: Just realized that the comparisons are difficult because of some cache issues -- once you click through on a Border's link, you'll get the Border's/Amazon pages for the regular links as well.)

Can't think this is any sort of deliberate differentiation, though. I suspect decided to remove the direct links and just never updated the code for the pages served up via

Received an e-mail earlier in the week about the Bandwith music and technology conference in August. It's described as a discussion of the "issues of interest to the music and technology communities, with a particular focus on the evolving musical experience." Here's a link to the conference schedule.


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

    <a href="">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

    album cover art from The Space Between

    <a href="">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 or Napster.

    album cover art from We've Been Lost

    <a href="">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, 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, Napster, or Rhapsody.

    More Layaways downloads:

    download the Layaways at eMusic download the Layaways at iTunes

    the layaways website