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.


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September 28, 2007

A Split from CD Baby for Snocap
by David Harrell
The CD Baby/Snocap agreement, where CD Baby distributed musicians could use the Snocap widget on a MySpace page, is ending.

The following e-mail from Snocap CEO Rusty Rueff was sent out early this morning:
As you know, both SNOCAP and CD Baby have worked very hard over the last few months to enable you, as a CD Baby artist, to sell your music directly to your fans on MySpace by using the SNOCAP MyStore. These experiences have shown us that SNOCAP works best when used directly by artists without the extra support of CD Baby. By managing your own account with SNOCAP, you can upload your music and make it available for sale within minutes, change and manage the content in your SNOCAP MyStore, and set your own prices for the tracks and albums, among other things.

Because of this, and CD Baby's philosophy that when you can do something on your own, you should be able to do so, we have decided it makes better sense for you to sign-up directly with SNOCAP if you want to use the SNOCAP MyStore.

To use or continue using the SNOCAP MyStore to sell your music on MySpace, you must create a direct account with SNOCAP. I personally hope you decide to do so, and the whole process will take you less than 60 seconds. Here is all you need to do...
Snocap is waiving its $30 annual fee for the first year, but after that the free ride for CD Baby artists is over.

Labels: , ,

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September 27, 2007

Thursday Odds and Ends
by David Harrell
From the Onion: reaction to the Starbucks Music Giveaway.

Off-topic, but worth a read: a long New Yorker piece on the Joyce Hatto hoax.

And eMusic subscribers on the new Amazon mp3 store.


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September 25, 2007

The Amazon MP3 Store is Here
by David Harrell banner

It's live -- here's the press release.

A couple quick observations: single song downloads from major label artists (Coldplay, etc.) are 89 or 99 cents, full albums are $7.99, $8.99, and $9.99. And though the main mp3 page has a category lists albums for $4.99 or less, a quick glance reveals that many of those "albums" are really EPs. Yet this five track release by Miles Davis is actually a full-length album for just $4.95. So it looks like albums with just a few long songs will be relative bargains at Amazon, just as they are at eMusic.

While Hypebot notes that many indie labels are represented in the Amazon mp3 store, it doesn't appear that the CD Baby catalog, which was delivered to Amazon back in 2006, is available yet for mp3 download.


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September 21, 2007

Friday Odds and Ends
by David Harrell
I'm back from the Future of Music Coalition's Policy Summit. Obviously, I wasn't liveblogging while I was there, but I do have a few thoughts that I'll post next week. (Thanks to Kristin for the invite!)

Also this week, the Freakonomics guys pondered some of the same issues, with this online quorum: What's the Future of the Music Industry?

And the new eMusic download manager is out of beta, but it's not getting a good response from some of the eMusic message board regulars. (I haven't tried it yet.)


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September 12, 2007

Wednesday Odds and Ends
by David Harrell
In a link to my post about the updated CD Baby digital sales numbers, Glenn at Coolfer noted something that I've written about before, but should've mentioned in Monday's post: The lower price of eMusic downloads relative to purchases from iTunes somewhat distorts the popularity of eMusic.

That is, if you translate the sales numbers from dollars to number of downloads, eMusic's market share increases. While the per-track payout from eMusic to labels/artists varies each month, it averages out to around 1/3 the amount paid by Apple for an iTunes download. So that 2.3% market share for eMusic would actually be more than 6%, in terms of total downloads of the CD Baby catalog. (Then again, what ultimately counts for artists and labels is dollars received, not unit sales, so there is a limit to this sort of logic...)

The Wall Street Journal's Lee Gomes has a column today on the trend for some musicians to mix and master for mp3:
"Right now, when you are done recording a track, the first thing the band does is to load it onto an iPod and give it a listen," said Alan Douches, who has worked with Fleetwood Mac and others. "Years ago, we might have checked the sound of a track on a Walkman, but no one believed that was the best it could sound. Today, young artists think MP3s are a high-quality medium and the iPod is state-of-the-art sound."
And digital distributor TuneCore is sponsoring a contest with a week of studio time at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios as the first prize.


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September 10, 2007

$20 Million+ in Digital Sales for CD Baby Catalog
by David Harrell
Sorry for the recent rash of CD Baby-related posts, but Derek Sivers keeps posting good stuff on the CD Baby message boards.

Last year, Sivers posted a breakdown of per-store digital sales for CD Baby distributed albums. I wrote several follow-ups based on my own band's digital sales, but have been waiting for an update on the overall CD Baby numbers.

Here's the most recent breakdown of digital sales for the entire CD Baby catalog:

breakdown of digital sales for CD Baby

As before, the various iTunes stores dominate with more than 80% of the total digital sales. But I'm somewhat shocked about the relatively low percentage for eMusic. Last time I checked, eMusic sales accounted for close to 40% of our modest digital revenue.

As I've written before, it seems like the eMusic subscriber base is the natural audience for self-released musicians, but the overall CD Baby numbers don't yet support that theory.


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September 07, 2007

Future of Music Policy Summit
by David Harrell
The Future of Music Coalition's Policy Summit will be held on September 17th and 18th. I'll be there as a panelist for the Disintermediation 2.0: How Technologies Are Flipping the Music Business on Its Head portion:
Representatives from cutting edge technology companies and musicians will discuss the new wave of digital DIY technologies and services that are empowering musicians, removing the middle man, and bringing artists and fans closer together.
Here's the full schedule for both days.


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September 05, 2007

The Flat Tail
by David Harrell
CD Baby president Derek Sivers posted some interesting numbers about the catalog, as of August 2007:
Total number of albums in CD Baby: 194,385

How many of those have ever sold a CD: 170,379

Percentage of artists who have sold a CD: 87%

Total number of albums in Digital Distribution: 129,014

How many of those have ever earned digital income: 123,168

Percentage of Digital Distribution artists who have earned digital income: 95%

How many artists sold a CD from January to June 2007: 101,648

How many artists had a CD sold in July 2007: 35,701

How many received payments in July 2007: 21,764

How many received two weekly payments in July 2007: 3245

How many received three weekly payments in July 2007: 1282

How many received four weekly payments in July 2007: 513

Here are the scary ones:

How many artists account for 25% of our total sales volume? 280 = 0.1%

How many artists account for 50% of our total sales volume? 1879 = 1%

How many artists account for 90% of our total sales volume? 23,504 = 12%
Given that there's really no barrier to entry to the CD Baby catalog -- you just need some music on a disc (a CD-R is fine!) and to pay the $35 fee -- I suppose these numbers aren't shocking. That is, my guess is that of those 194,385 albums, only a minority of them are from artists and labels who are actively promoting their music. I imagine there are quite a few instances of "hey, let's sell our old four-track demo tape."

Still, I'm a little a surprised that are more than 20,000 CDs in the catalog that have never sold a single copy. In his Long Tail book, Chris Anderson noted that nearly every track in the Rhapsody catalog was downloaded or streamed each month. The big difference here, of course, is that there's no incremental cost for a Rhapsody subscriber to stream a track, which isn't the case for the purchase of a physical CD.


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

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    "This is a sweet treat, deliciously musical without being overbaked for mass media consumption." -- Hyperbolium

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