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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May 29, 2008

The New Dime Store, Part 2
by David Harrell
A few more thoughts on the new "rental" option from Lala.com:

The "pay once and stream forever" model does alleviate one supposed consumer concern that's mentioned in most analyses of why "rental music" (the subscription model) hasn't taken off: The fear that -- if you ever cancel your subscription -- you lose all of your music and have nothing to show for all the money you paid.

I've never really thought this to be a valid issue -- it's seems akin to complaining that you can't watch HBO and ESPN if you cancel your cable subscription. Besides, you can always re-subscribe and gain full access to the catalogs of the subscription services. But, if that concern really held some consumers back from streaming subscriptions, the new Lala.com plan should be appealing. Though, as Michael Robertson points out in his analysis, purchasers of the dime streams are reliant on the continued existence of both Lala.com and this particular business model. Coolfer's take, which I agree with, is that it's unlikely for anyone to be too worried about losing something they paid a dime for.

Also, I'm very curious about how record labels will be compensated for these "purchases." I haven't read anything yet about how that dime is split with the labels, but assuming that the percentage breakdown is similar to iTunes, labels would receive approximately seven cents for every dime purchase.

Based on the payouts I've seen for my own band via CD Baby's digital distribution, Rhapsody and Napster pay at least one cent every time a subscriber streams a song. (There appears to be different Napster payout rates for the ad-supported free streams and streams by paying subscribers). So whenever a Napster or Rhapsody subscriber streams a specific song seven times or more, the label receives more than it will likely receive from the one-time payment from Lala.com.

Yet that comparison assumes it's strictly an "either or" proposition, and that the two models are competing for the same exact same consumers, with Lala.com dime purchases coming at the expense of repeated downloads within the previous subscription services. Given the relatively limited market share of the standard subscription models, it still makes sense to reach as many music consumers as possible, even under compensation plans that might pay less. (Warner Music Group is a major investor in Lala.com, so it's clearly on board with the revenue split, whatever it is...)

And -- of course -- labels have long accepted different levels of compensation to reach different digital music consumers -- 70 cents for 99-cent downloads from iTunes and Amazon.com MP3, 20 to 33 cents for downloads from eMusic subscribers, and so on.

BTW -- I spend a bit of time with the site today. Availability is somewhat hit or miss, but I'm impressed. It's easy enough to add songs and listen to them. (Still working on my 50 free songs, so I have yet to fork over a dime...). There's also the option to "upgrade" many of the streamable songs to mp3 for an additional 79 cents, which the makes the purchase of dime stream an attractive alternative to purchasing a download from iTunes or Amazon.com MP3. If the streams are enough, you've saved (on a percentage basis) a lot of money, and you don't pay a penalty for opting to purchase the mp3 at a later date.

related: The Latest from Lala: The Return of the Dime Store

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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