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

December 31, 2008

Looking Back at 2008
by David Harrell
In a somewhat random order, here are the nine Digital Audio Insider posts that generated the most combined page views, reader comments, and e-mails:
The Latest from Lala: The Return of the Dime Store

The New Dime Store, Part 2

The Patronage Model

The New Music Equation: Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Etc.

The New Music Equation, Part 2

How We Listen

Buying Free Music

Giving It Away: A Call for Ideas

The Big Switch: Will It Happen for Music?
Thanks to all who read, commented, or e-mailed -- best wishes for a happy 2009!


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

December 23, 2008

'Tis the Season: Free Christmas EP
by David Harrell

Layaways Christmas EP banner

To paraphrase the old NBC slogan, if you haven't heard it, it's new to you: The Layaways' 2006 Christmas EP is available for free streaming and download on
The Christmas EP - The Layaways
It includes our indie-disco take on "O Christmas Tree" and instrumental versions of "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night." Please check it out if you're in the mood for some holiday tunes.

Direct downloads are also available:
O Christmas Tree - free mp3
Joy to the World - free mp3
Silent Night - free mp3
On a related note, Daniel Levitin (author of The World in Six Songs) wrote a recent WSJ piece on why holiday music can be so annoying. While that may be true of holiday music that is forced on you by retailers and such, I'm continually amazed at the public's appetite for holiday music. It seems like more musical acts than not have holiday-themed albums. And while I'd like to think that our late-year surge (on a percentage basis, at least) of listeners is result of the new album, it's primarily due to the spins of our Christmas tracks.


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

December 19, 2008

The New Music Equation, Part 2
by David Harrell
Back in February, I posted "The New Music Equation," which reduced the "voluntary payment/purchase" music business model to the following equation:
(A x B x C) - E = D


A = the total # of people who acquire the work

B = the percent who actually pay for it

C = the average amount each person pays

E = total expenses (recording, marketing, promotion, etc.)


D = the total revenue received
What this equation ignores, however, is the growing number of ways for musicians to receive compensation for "free" music. Not directly from the listener, but from a third party.

So far, it's mostly compensation for ad-supported on demand streams, such as those offered by the free streams of paid subscription services such as Napster and Rhapsody. also pays musicians for the free streams it offers. I'm ignoring, for now, the revamped Myspace music player, as there's not yet a way for independent/unsigned musicians to participate. There are also some models like RCRD LBL that compensate musicians for actual downloads. And TuneCore recently announced a program for corporate-sponsored downloads.'s new artist royalty program, for example, pays artists/labels for on demand streams of individual tracks. While there's some flexibility to the payout rate, for the third quarter of 2008, the per-track rate was 0.5 cents per on demand listen. The per-song payout from is a similar amount. Using the standard payouts from iTunes, Amazon MP3, and eMusic (a varying amount), it's easy to calculate the number of free streams needed to equal the artist compensation for a paid download:

140 listens = 1 iTunes or Amazon MP3 download

68 listens = 1 eMusic download

However, it's important to note that it's not an either/or proposition. Free on demand listeners are also potential purchasers of the music. But even if they never buy anything, they're still adding something to the bottom line.

Incorporating this "compensated free" component within the new music equation gives us:
(A x B x C) + (A x F x G) - E = D


F = percent of listeners/acquirers who listen to/obtain music from an compensating source


G = the average amount received for each listen/download
It seems like the key for an artist/label is to -- as much as possible -- nudge listeners toward free music where there is an artist compensation component, even if it's only a fraction of a cent per listen or download.

The question is, how far do you go in steering listeners to such sources? The basic math is in favor of only offering free music via a compensating source. However, my guess is that restricting listeners to such sources would probably reduce the first component of the equation, the total number of listeners/acquirers. Some potential listeners will no doubt balk at the idea of going to,, or a corporate sponsor's site to stream or download music.

Obviously, there isn't a single optimal strategy for every artist and label -- what works best will vary according to the size and demographics of the audience for each specific act (not to mention the actual artistic merit of the work itself). Yet if you're willing to go "free," maximizing the total number of listeners remains paramount, and I'd be reluctant to do anything to reduce that number.


link 4 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

December 18, 2008

28 Days for iTunes
by David Harrell
CD Baby delivered our third album to the iTunes store on November 20th and it went live today. Not quite as speedy as Napster, but I think that was quicker than the delivery-to-available-for-sale times for our first two discs.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there's currently no way for most self-released musicians to set a specific release date for digital retailers with either TuneCore or CD Baby.


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

December 11, 2008

The Future of Free
by David Harrell
I just stumbled across Mark Mulligan's Music Industry Blog. Lots of smart posts, including some recent thoughts on free music:
Jupiter surveyed many hundreds of unsigned artists and asked them about their aspirations. The vast majority wanted to get a record deal. The vast majority wanted to make money out of selling their music. So whilst many have argued that artists just want to be musicians and not make money, this simply isn't the case. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not arguing that musicians' are some money grabbing bunch, simply that they'd like to be able to get paid for doing what they love and ideally be able too give up their day jobs. Not get a yacht or private jet, just be able to make a decent living.

People have cited Radiohead as an example of an artist that went free. They didn’t. No one could download the album for free -- you had to pay a minimum 'administration' fee. And then Radiohead used the success of the initiative to secure a lucrative distribution deal with XL Recordings for that outdated concept, the CD. Radiohead made more money out of In Rainbows than many other of their albums. They played the system to get better contract terms and to drum up interest.
Right now I'm working on an update my New Music Equation post to better incorporate free music. Not the "please download our free mp3s" type of free, but the "free to the listener but the musicians get paid" variety. Look for it next week!


link 4 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

December 05, 2008

Jumping On The Bandwagon
by David Harrell
You can now follow Digital Audio Insider on Twitter.


link 0 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

December 04, 2008

Thursday Odds and Ends
by David Harrell
Another reason the CD isn't going away any time soon: Music reviewers prefer physical discs, for listening convenience and -- perhaps even more -- their resale value:
I'm a member of a list serve called the "PR list" which is a group of hundreds of music PR professionals and they recently conducted an informal survey about sending music digitally to music journalists versus sending CD's. The response from writers was overwhelming. They insisted upon getting the full CD with the artwork in a jewel case with a spine or they wouldn't consider a review at all. Why? Because used CD stores only will take CDs that include cases and spines and artwork as the LA Weekly article also points out.
Kudos to Napster and MP3. For self-released musicians, getting your music into the digital download stores is a waiting game. CD Baby and TuneCore will deliver the files, but after that there's no telling when an album will actually appear online. CD Baby warns that it can take up to three months. But Napster was superfast -- CD Baby delivered the new Layaways album on November 20th and it went live on December 3rd. MP3 received the album on November 10th, and it went live today.

Finally, ATO is giving away the lead-off track to Paul McCartney's new "The Fireman" release at MP3, but the beggars are choosy, with negative reviews outweighing the positive. Here's my favorite:
It's a 9021 KB size file that deletes pretty fast. Don't forget to empty your recycle bin after deleting, as you might accidentally restore it and re-contaminate your hard drive.
The album itself is faring better with critics and eMusic subscribers.


link 0 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

December 01, 2008

How Do You Wrap An MP3 Album?
by David Harrell mp3 banner

Not sure how much longer it will last, but Amazon MP3 is running a "black Friday" special -- 50 of its top-selling mp3 albums for $5 each.

Meanwhile, I just noticed that the iTunes store now has its own bargain specials -- a handful of $4.99 albums are featured on the main page.


link 0 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