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 28, 2010

Thursday Odds and Ends: iTunes Selling Free Songs for 69 Cents
by David Harrell
The homepage of Apple's iTunes store has an "Indie Spotlight," a playlist of nine songs selling for 69 cents each. Some quick Google searches revealed that the first five tracks are all songs the respective artists and record companies are already giving away online. The Sufjan Stevens track is a freebie at his Bandcamp page, songs from Wild Nothing and Deerhunter are authorized free downloads at Pitchfork, a Blonde Redhead track was given to Fader, and a Kitten song appears to be another label-authorized music blog giveaway. I stopped searching there, but that's a five-for-five for the first five songs.

Update: I realize, of course, that iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and other digital retailers all sell tracks that artists/labels are giving away. And even when artists offer a free mp3, they still might hope that fans will support them by buying the same song. But what struck me here was the fact that Apple is promoting a "discounted" playlist (on the first page of the iTunes store!) that is mostly composed of promo/giveaway tracks.

Do people use a minor third to convey sadness when speaking? (Thanks Laura!)

An eMusic subscriber also wonders about the psychology of song credits versus dollars and cents. (My recent post about it.)

Finally, if you only know the Church from their 1988 hit "Under the Milky Way," check out "The Unguarded Moment," a classic early 80s single from the band. It's currently available as a free download from Amazon MP3.


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

October 18, 2010

MySpace Still Rules Google Search Results for Music Acts
by David Harrell
google search results

Facebook and Twitter are both more popular than MySpace, but based on my informal study, MySpace still rules when it comes to Google search results for music acts. is also favored by Google searches.

Given that it's pretty much dormant (and we never did much with it in the first place), I'm always surprised to see our MySpace page show up as one of the top three results whenever I do a vanity Google search for my band. I was curious to see the Google rank for the MySpace pages of well-known artists and conducted a quick search experiment last week. It wasn't exhaustive -- I just started with some of the bigger "indie rock" names of the past decade and threw in a handful of classic rock acts as well. Also, for band names of more than one word, I didn't put quote marks around the full name, I just typed the band name and hit return, figuring that's what most people would do when conducting a search.

For most of the acts, the Google Music Search player appears at the top of the results (no surprise there). And in almost every case, the band's MySpace page was one of the top five search results. Of the 10 other artists I conducted searches for, Led Zeppelin was the only one where a MySpace page wasn't one of the top 10 search results. Facebook only made two top-10 appearances (one of which was a search for my own band), though it was in the 11th or 12th spot for several acts. made a surprisingly strong appearance and was a top-10 result for almost every artist.

Some artists (or their labels) are very active on MySpace, of course, so you'd expect to see their respective MySpace pages as top search results. But MySpace also has the substantial advantage of having been around longer than Facebook, Twitter, etc., and online articles and blogs posts have linked to MySpace pages for years. Incoming links figure highly into Google's PageRank calculations, so even if some artists are transitioning their social networking efforts to other sites, MySpace seems likely to remain at the top of Google search results for the foreseeable future. And Apple's new Ping network (I'll be writing more about it soon), seems unlikely to become a top search result, unless iTunes is transitioned to a browser-based platform.

Below are the top 10 search results as of Friday, October 15, 2010. Click on the artist names to see the full search results:

Arcade Fire
  1. official site
  2. MySpace page
  3. Wikipedia page
  4. Google news results
  5. fan page
  6. Google video results
  7. page
  8. label page (Merge Records)
  9. album page
  10. Twitter page
Band of Horses
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. MySpace page
  4. Wikipedia page
  5. Google video results
  6. page
  7. label page (Sub Pop Records)
  8. album page
  9. artist site (album streaming page)
  10. Facebook page
Broken Bells
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. official site (home page)
  4. MySpace page
  5. Wikipedia page
  6. Google video results
  7. album page
  8. page
  9. NPR story
  10. iTunes album link
The Layaways (my band)
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. MySpace page
  4. eMusic artist page
  5. page
  6. Facebook page
  7. CD Baby album page
  8. unrelated site
  9. post at this blog
  10. unrelated site
LCD Soundsystem
  1. official site
  2. official site (album page)
  3. MySpace page
  4. Google news results
  5. Wikipedia page
  6. Google video results
  7. page
  8. Vimeo page
  9. Pitchfork interview
  10. Discogs artist page
Led Zeppelin
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. Wikipedia page
  4. Google video results
  5. fan site
  6. Google news results
  7. page
  8. album page
  9. fan site
  10. MTV artist page
The National
  1. official site
  2. MySpace page
  3. Wikipedia page
  4. unrelated site
  5. unrelated site
  6. page
  7. unrelated site
  8. unrelated site
  9. Google video results
  10. unrelated site
The Rolling Stones
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. Wikipedia page
  4. Google video results
  5. unrelated site (Rolling Stone magazine!)
  6. Google news results
  7. page
  8. MySpace page
  9. Artist Direct page (dead link)
  10. fan club page
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. Wikipedia page
  4. fan site
  5. MySpace page
  6. Google video results
  7. page
  8. fan site
  9. fan site
  10. MTV artist page
Vampire Weekend
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. official site
  3. official site (music page)
  4. MySpace page
  5. Google news results
  6. Google video results
  7. Wikipedia page
  8. page
  9. page
  10. Google image results
The Walkmen
  1. Google Music Search player
  2. MySpace page
  3. official site
  4. official site (news page)
  5. Google news results
  6. Wikipedia page
  7. page
  8. Google image results
  9. Google video results
  10. NPR story

link 1 comments e-mail listen to the Layaways on Spotify

October 13, 2010

The New eMusic: The Psychology of Dollars vs. Credits
by David Harrell
the new eMusic music balance

Until the eMusic changes go live next month, it's difficult to speculate exactly what the addition of the Universal catalog and a shift from credits to dollar amounts for purchases will mean. And at this point, I have no idea if eMusic's current business model of sharing 60% of subscriber revenue will persist, or if the company is switching to the iTunes/Amazon model, where it pays labels a wholesale price for each track sold and pockets the mark-up.

As I've written here before, under the current model, labels and artists benefit from the digital breakage that occurs when eMusic subscribers let their credits expire unused. (Subscription plans are "use it or lose it," there is no carryover feature.) In the past, the per-track payout from eMusic to labels has often approached or exceeded the nominal per-track price that the subscription plans suggest. That is, because eMusic subscribers collectively fail to use all of their allotted downloads, when the 60% of revenue amount is divided by the total number of downloaded tracks within a payout period, the resulting payout amount is much larger than the subscription plan packages would suggest. Based on previous payouts that I've seen for my own music in the eMusic catalog, it appears that breakage rates are as high as 40% to 50%.

But with a switch to per-track pricing, I'm wondering if those rates will decline. It's one thing to let your "credits" expire each month. (I've certainly done so, consoling myself that in--a very small way--I'm helping to boost the payout rate I'll see for my music.) The new eMusic interface, however, won't display your remaining credits, it'll show your remaining dollars for the period. And my guess is that subscribers will be more reluctant to lose their money than their credits, even if it means the exact same thing in practice. While the new system will feature a "loose change" component where small amounts (less than the price of single download) will roll over, if you have a balance of $12.99 at the end of the month, you'll lose it all. It seems likely that eMusic subscribers will find dollar amounts more dear than credits.

related: More On eMusic Payouts, eMusic's Per-Song Payout for Q1 2010


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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