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.

My personal website has links to my LinkedIn and Google+ pages and you can send e-mail to david [at] thelayaways [dot] com.

If you enjoy this site, please consider downloading a Layaways track or album from iTunes, Amazon MP3, Bandcamp, or eMusic. CDs are available from CD Baby and Amazon.


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December 30, 2011

The Top 7 Digital Audio Insider Posts of 2011
by David Harrell
The seven posts below generated the most page views, comments, and/or e-mails for this site over the past year. Thanks to everyone who read, commented, linked, and e-mailed. Happy New Year!

Spot the Spotify Payment
...the average streaming rate is small enough that it'd take 244 Spotify spins to equal the label cut of a 99-cent iTunes download. But the real question here, in terms of artist/label compensation, is what Spotify activity actually represents. That is, is it simply a new revenue stream, providing income from listeners who don't normally purchase music, or is there also a cannibalization factor, where some listeners opt for streaming over actual purchase? read more

A Few Thoughts On Pandora
Does Pandora's Music Genome-based programming give it a competitive advantage? That is, does it result in a better listener experience than with Internet stations like, where "similar" artists are determined by listener overlap (listeners of artist A also like artist B), as opposed to song qualities? read more

The Downside of eMusic's Currency Pricing
Even after last year's subscription changes, average album prices at eMusic are no doubt less than the average prices at iTunes, Amazon MP3, and other digital music stores. Yet I believe that eMusic's switch from a credits system to currency pricing, in combination with Amazon MP3's $5 album deals and daily specials, presents a real challenge to eMusic's subscription-based business model. read more

How Much Does Rhapsody Pay Artists?
Here's how I'm paid for my self-released albums in the Rhapsody catalog:

1. A penny per stream. For albums distributed by CD Baby and TuneCore, I receive one cent per listener stream. CD Baby, which uses a commission business model, takes a 9% cut, resulting in a .91 cent payout per stream. TuneCore, which charges an annual maintenance fee for each album, passes on the full one cent. This one-cent rate has remained steady and unchanged from September 2004 to the present. read more

The Convergence of Owning Music and Renting Music
There are real differences, both logistical and psychological, between owning and renting music. But I'll bet that the preference for ownership will decrease as the listening experience for "owned" and "rented" music converges. read more

The Ethics of Downloading Music You've Already Paid For
An eMusic subscriber loses $200 worth of his downloads and posts this question to eMusic's message board: Is it ethical to download those same tracks from illegal sources (such as P2P sites)?

I was somewhat surprised by the responses -- by more than a 3 to 1 ratio, his fellow subscribers voted "no," most of them rather emphatically. Then again, maybe that's not surprising, as eMusic subscribers are a self-selected group of music fans who are willingly paying for digital content that they could probably download elsewhere free. read more

A Funny Spotify Experiment: Why Judas Priest Sounds Just Like Jerry Reed
The fact that the Spotify interface allows you to play tracks stored in your iTunes and Windows Media libraries made me wonder what happens when you use Spotify to "stream" a track you already own. From a performance standpoint, it makes sense for Spotify to pull the file from your hard drive. And doing so would also -- in theory -- relieve Spotify of any obligation to compensate the record company for that play, as the situation would be no different than listening to a track in iTunes. read more

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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