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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October 30, 2008

One More Day
by David Harrell banner

No, I'm not counting down the hours to Halloween, but tomorrow is the day that will release the first accounting reports for its artist royalty program.

I'm certainly not expecting a big payday, as we just recently passed the 2,000 listener mark in our stats. Also, the per-song minimums spelled out in's FAQ about the program are quite low:
- If your track is played on our free radio service you will accrue a 10% of the Share of's Net Revenue (see the definition of "Share" and "Net Revenue" in the terms and conditions) from the free radio service.

- If your track is played on our personalised premium radio service, you will accrue the greater of either 10% of the Share of's Net Revenue from the personalised radio service, or US $0.0005 for each complete transmission on the personalised radio service.

- If your track is played on our free on-demand service, you will accrue 30% of the Share of's Net Revenue from the on-demand radio service.

- If your track is played on our premium on-demand service, you will accrue the greater of either 30% of the Share of's Net Revenue from the premium on-demand service, or US $0.005 for each complete transmission on the prepaid or subscription on-demand service.
The minimum rates above are obviously less than the penny-per-stream rates that some services have been paying for free streams. However, in's defense, a penny-per-stream isn't a viable business model for ad-supported music (at least not banner ads). As Lucas Gonze noted back in June, you'd need a ten-fold increase in current CPM ad rates to support a penny-per-stream payout.

Look for follow-up post next week, after I've had a chance to digest the first report.


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October 28, 2008

Napster -- the Best Digital Payout?
by David Harrell
A few Napster mp3 sales just showed up in our CD Baby account. What's interesting is that we received 85.8 cents a track. And that's AFTER CD Baby took its 9% cut, which suggests that Napster is paying out 94.3 cents a track.

Perhaps it's an accounting mistake -- it seems unlikely that Napster can come close to breaking even on a 99-cent sale! (Apple's iTunes and the MP3 store both pay distributors and labels 70 cents for 99-cent downloads...)

UPDATE: It just occurred to me that these may be international sales, for more than 99 cents in U.S. dollars. CD Baby doesn't indicate where each digital sale is coming from, unless it's from a specific iTunes store.


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October 17, 2008

Trading CDs for iPods, Literally
by David Harrell
I found an interesting ad in the current issue of the Big Takeover: NYC-based iPodMeister trades new iPods for used CDs and DVDs. And, in exchange for additional CDs, iPodMeister will rip the discs, load the tracks onto the iPod, and send back-up DVDs:

iPodMeister exchange chart

The back-up option probably violates a strict "fair use" interpretation of copyright law (that is, you're not supposed to retain copies of CDs you no longer own...), so I'm wondering how long it can continue before the RIAA sends a letter of some sort.

Also, the per-disc cash equivelent is relatively low. For example, a new 8 GB iPod Nano currently sells for $139.94 at, which means iPodMeister is essentially paying 93 cents for each used disc with its current iPod Nano offer (or 70 cents per disc if you opt for file back-up and loading). You might do better taking a box of discs down to the local used CD shop.

However, it's still an enticing offer, and it's pretty much hassle free -- iPodMeister will even pay for UPS shipping. We moved two years ago and the bulk of my CD collection is still languishing in boxes in the basement, so I can see the appeal of directly converting something that's sitting unused into a shiny new iPod.

Unfortunately, it's not a way for self-released musicians to turn unsold stock into a new iPod:
We usually only accept one CD per title, i.e. we do NOT accept a dozen unsold, shrink wrapped CDs of a local bar band.

link 3 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

October 15, 2008

The MP3 Debate
by David Harrell
My apologies for a post that is completely off-topic, though it is somewhat topical...

Terry Teachout's piece in Saturday's Wall Street Journal about the release of some 1908 recordings by presidential candidates William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft (and tonight's presidential debate) got me thinking about one of the first things I ever listened to on my iPod -- the four 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates. They're available for free download as mp3 files at and are definitely worth a listen for anyone with a passing interest in politics or U.S. history.

While much of the content of the 1960 debates seems completely modern, there are some interesting anachronisms. For example, I never knew that the number of hydro-electric damns in the United States, relative to the number in the Soviet Union, was such a hot political topic. And though it's been a couple years since I listened to all four debates, I'm pretty certain that Kennedy made at least one reference to "colored" children when discussing public education.

The Wikipedia entry for the 1960 election expands on the conventional wisdom about the debates (Kennedy looked good on television and Nixon didn't, so television viewers thought Kennedy won, while radio listeners thought it a draw or a win for Nixon), noting that political observers gave Kennedy the nod for the first debate, Nixon the edge for the second and third debates, and the fourth debate was considered a tie.

When I listened to them, I didn't perceive a significant advantage for either candidate -- certainly no knock-out blows. Regardless, they're a fascinating listen and not a bad way to fill your morning commute for a week or so.

UPDATE: If you arrived at this page looking for an mp3 of the third Obama-McCain debate, you can download it here from NPR.


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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

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    "...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
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    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

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    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