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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July 22, 2010

Words and Music: Why Are Digital Books Already More Popular Than Digital Music Downloads?
by David Harrell, of course, doesn't represent the entire book market. Yet Monday's Amazon press release, which revealed that the company now sells 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books sold, makes it clear that consumers are embracing digital books at a much faster rate than digital music.

So why has a book format introduced years after commercial digital music downloads already gained greater commercial acceptance? Some quick thoughts about the possible reasons why:

1. Existing Content
If you buy an iPod, you need something to put on it. Most music fans already own CDs that can be easily converted to mp3s. (We'll get to free/pirated music in a bit.) But you can't readily transfer your existing books to an e-reader. And even if you could, most people don't re-read their favorite books in the same way they listen to their favorite music over and over again. Frequent readers always need fresh content.

2. The Flexibility of CDs
When it comes to purchasing new music, the main advantage to buying digital downloads is the immediate delivery. However, if you're not in a hurry, purchasing a physical CD gives you much more flexibility. It delivers higher-quality sound files that can be converted into the file format of your choice, you can play the disc itself, and it serves as a back-up copy of the original WAV files.

3. The Unbundling Effect
The introduction of commercial digital downloads was more than a new medium/delivery format. It also meant that consumers were no longer forced to purchase an entire album if they only wanted one or two songs from that album. Perhaps the cherry picking of favorite tracks has contributed to modest growth of digital music sales relative to the total amount of music purchased on CD. With e-books, consumers don't have the option of cherry picking, and it seems unlikely that they'd do so, even if e-books could be purchased by the chapter. (With the exception of textbooks, as a comment to this post noted.)

4. Digital Books Are Relatively Cheaper Than Digital Albums?
Scratch that one. I started to write that unlike the prices of digital albums relative to CDs, digital books are almost always considerably cheaper than physical books. But a quick glance at Amazon's Kindle chart reveals that many of the bestselling digital books (like this one) are actually more expensive than the paperback or even hardback versions. This, however, might be a recent change -- before Amazon was forced to accept the agency model, it was selling many digital books as $9.99 loss leaders.

5. More Options for Free Music/Demographics
Two thoughts here: While there are hundreds of thousands of free, legal e-book titles, new releases are probably harder on P2P networks than new music.

There's also a demographic angle to consider. My guess is that, on average, the biggest consumers of music are younger than the biggest consumers of books. And, on average, younger consumers have less money, are more tech savvy, and are less likely to have qualms about not paying for copyrighted material. Older consumers, on the other hand, have more disposable income, are less tech savvy, and might be uncomfortable downloading pirated e-books, even if they were as readily available as music. Please don't get me wrong -- these are all broad generalizations. I'm not saying that all young people refuse to pay for music or that anyone over 40 doesn't have the know-how to download from a P2P network (or that young people don't read and older people don't listen to a lot of music). But if these general trends are true, they might have contributed to the faster growth of the digital book market.

What did I miss? If you have any other ideas or thoughts about why the switch to digital books is progressing faster than the changeover from CDs to music downloads, please leave a comment.

related: Digital Books vs. Digital Music


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

July 09, 2010

Friday Fun: The Layaways and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
by David Harrell
My band the Layaways has never released a video, but thanks to Rumblefish music licensing, which provides content for YouTube's AudioSwap functionality, there are currently several dozen videos with our music on YouTube. We receive a fraction of a cent for each play, though it hasn't been much of a moneymaker so far. Our quarterly royalty checks have all been for less than $10, but you never know...

This is my favorite of the lot: Someone edited together a bunch of scenes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to highlight the, uh, romantic tension between the two leads, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. He used "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher as the soundtrack, but after receiving a take-down notice from Warner Music, substituted "Silence" by the Layaways. It's somewhat random, but in quite a few places the lyrics actually seem to work with the video:


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

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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