Digital Audio Insider -- the economics of music and other digital content

  digital audio insider


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.


Analog Industries
Ars Technica
Brad Sucks Blog
Broken Record
Digital Music News
Duke Listens
Future of Music Coalition Blog
LA Times Technology Blog
The ListeNerd
MP3 Insider
Music Ally
Music Machinery
Music Think Tank
The Music Void
New Music Strategies
Online Fandom
Pakman's Blog
Rough Type
Virtual Economics

The Big Picture
Core Economics
The Long Tail
Marginal Revolution
The Undercover Economist

17 Dots
Shake Your Fist
Sounds Like the 80s
Unleash the Love

January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
August 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
June 2013
August 2013
February 2014
March 2014
September 2014
December 2014
March 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
October 2016
May 2017

August 06, 2007

Going Postal
by David Harrell

postal carrier

Despite the growing use of digital downloads by music fans (and the increasingly large role of mp3 blogs in promoting music) the physical CD isn't going away any time soon. Especially for sending your music to reviewers and radio stations. Very few (if any) college radio stations are going to deal with an mp3 download. Nor will print publications.

It's not cheap, and postage is a big part of the overall cost. The cost of mailing a CD (in a jewel case) exceeds that of a manufactured CD itself. And it just got pricier: Last month I mailed some discs for the first time since the postal rate increases that went into effect in May. While the increase in the mailing cost of a first class letter was marginal -- the bump from 39 to 41 cents was just a 5% change -- I was shocked by the huge increase in the cost of mailing a packaged CD.

Prior to the rate increase, it cost me $1.35 to send a CD in this cardboard packaging via first-class mail. (For a single CD, first class is far cheaper than the media mail option.) But the old postal rates treated small packages like letters -- you basically paid by weight. The new rates charge a higher base rate for packages, so the rate for my CD package increased to $1.81, a 34% increase.

While I could save on mailing costs by ditching the jewel cases for cardboard sleeves, I worry that CDs in sleeves are more likely to get lost in the shuffle at a radio station, if most of the releases are in standard jewel cases. Given that we're already fighting an uphill battle as a self-released, self-promoted act, I'm reluctant to send out anything to radio and reviewers that doesn't conform to the packaging norm.

I'm not wild about the Digipak format either. (Too easily scuffed and the inserts fall out, etc.) But if they're lighter, I'm willing to consider them.

Anyway, it seems like these new rates are going to have a huge impact on small labels and self-released musicians. Dischord Records has already discontinued its longstanding "free shipping" policy. And the new rates make selling CDs through's Advantage program even less lucrative than before, due to a "just in time re-stocking" policy that maximizes mailing costs with small re-orders.

I suppose there's no getting around it, though. If you want to get your music to radio,, and certain reviewers, a digital download just won't cut it, at least in the near future.

Still, the whole thing makes me question the logic of mailing digital files on plastic discs in plastic boxes in cardboard packages. I don't -- in any way -- want to disparage the influence of college radio or the DJs and music directors (some of them of them were very kind to us during our last radio campaign back in 2005 and I have fond memories of my own short stint in college radio). But I'm starting to wonder if a blurb and a link on a well-read mp3 blog is more valuable to small indie band than modest airplay on a small- or mid-size college station. Ideally, you'd want both, but these new postal rates make me slightly less inclined to send out 400 copies of our next album to college radio. We probably will anyway, but I'll try to team up with another self-released act or two to split the postage costs.

Image swiped from the Minnesota Historical Society.


link 2 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

More Digital Audio Insider: Newer Posts Older Posts

Subscribe:   RSS Feed

Add this blog to, Digg, or Furl. Follow David Harrell on Google+.

The Digital Audio Insider Twitter feed:
    Apple stock analysis

    Digital music jobs: Looking to hire? Looking for a job? Check out the digital audio insider job board.

    Popular Posts

    A Long Tail Experiment
    By the Numbers: Using Statistics to Quantify Audience Devotion Owes Me Sixty Cents
    An Interview with Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven
    Price Elasticity of Demand for McCartney
    Sony and eMusic: What I Missed

    The Digital Pricing Conundrum series:
    Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four


    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