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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August 10, 2006

Interview with Jim Kelly of Parasol
by David Harrell
Interview with Jim Kelly of Parasol
Parasol is an online/mailorder retailer, a distributor, and a group of indie labels. Jim Kelly, who heads up Parasol's publicity department and the label group, was kind enough to share some thoughts via e-mail about digital sales and download stores.

There's an impressive list of free mp3s on the Parasol downloads page. Do you have any feel for how offering a free song affects subsequent sales of the album?

From our site I don't suppose we have a good way to track those numbers, plus the number of our own-site visitor downloads isn't that large. When we've given away tracks via Pitchfork, for example, we've seen a huge increase in downloads and usually corresponding jumps in direct mailorder sales, but it certainly varies. Not a science by any means. Getting those free mp3s in front of the right people is the most important thing.

Digital store trends: my pet theory is that while the sale of a song at iTunes nets a label more than a download from eMusic (70 cents vs. 20 cents or so), the eMusic audience might turn out to be the best bet for indie labels and artists. Any thoughts here or details you can share about which digital stores are generating the most sales for Parasol labels?

ITunes and eMusic are #1 and #2 for Parasol and account for at least 95% (and likely more) of our digital revenues. I feel like eMusic parlays their commitment and enthusiasm for the music in a way that makes up for the lesser per-download revenues. I'm also positive that folks use their iTunes and eMusic subs to decide which physical albums to purchase. We get plenty of mailorder action from folks who downloaded such and such for such and such service...nice to know that digital drives physical sales too, a circuit connected! We have enjoyed working with eMusic through the years while, for myself, iTunes remains a less personable entity.

continue reading "Interview with Jim Kelly of Parasol"

Let's talk about digital download pricing. I know it's not something you have much control over, but what do you think about the current price of downloads relative to buying a CD: Are download prices too high or just right relative to CD prices?

Like all other labels, taking in $6+ on a full-album digital download from iTunes we've got no complaints! GRAVY!

Has the proliferation of mp3 blogs and podcasts caused you to make any major changes in your promo strategies? Has the influence of traditional press outlets declined significantly?

We usually do a pretty nice mailing of new releases we're publicizing to bloggers of note. It happens naturally and organically whether we plan it or not. So we try and make it part of our campaign and we schedule mailings to have the hype landing nearer to official release dates. I also do a bit of policing to convince bloggers to focus on a single track or two. More than occasionally I'll find bloggers giving away entire EP, even albums, but I've found that a polite email sets them straight.

As far as reviews reaching the widest audience I'd rather have a Pitchfork review online than anything in print in -- let's say -- Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly...I'm just not sure print magazines are reaching the audience we are targeting anymore. On that front Magnet and upstarts like Arthur are the exceptions to the rule.

Finally, where do you see things in five or 10 years? I don't think the CD is going away anytime soon, but do you see a crossover point in the near future where digital sales approach or surpass the sales of physical discs?

Our release of Jose Gonzalez's "Veneer" album last year (prior to Mute whisking him away) saw digital and physical sales almost neck and neck for the first 4 months...which certainly was an anomaly. Perhaps more about a lack of physical sales at the time than what seemed like a surplus of digital sales. I see a point where labels will press CDs for promotional use and for compact disc fans (much like vinyl is produced for vinyl fetishists now) as digital takes over a much larger share... The industry is about to begin entertaining the whims of an entire generation of consumers who have spent their formative years downloading (legally or otherwise) who won't have the same attachment to the physical CD. Like my kids for example... They've grown up with iPods and iTunes and burning CD-Rs -- that's how they listen to music.

Thanks Jim!


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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
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    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

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