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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February 23, 2011

Wednesday Odds and Ends: Radiohead and More
by David Harrell
I have no idea how many downloads of "The King of Limbs" Radiohead has sold. But listeners bought (and listened) enough that the album's eight songs dominated's track chart for the week ending Sunday, February 20th -- less than three days after the album's release.

Billboard's Glenn Peoples wonders if some Radiohead fans would've passed on the pre-order if they had known the album had just eight tracks, noting that "these days it's hard to find an album that doesn't have at least ten songs." That true, but I'd argue that longer-album trend (as measured by number of songs and total playing time) that coincided with the rise of the CD format might not be a permanent one. While the CD format remains the biggest seller, as digital album sales increase, maybe artists will feel more free to release shorter works that don't take full advantage of the storage limits of the delivery device. Besides, at nearly 38 minutes, the album certainly isn't skimpy by vinyl standards -- some early Van Halen albums barely broke the 30-minute mark and Springsteen's "Born to Run" is an eight-song classic. Still, I'll admit that eight years of the iTunes store has conditioned me to think individual tracks costs 99 cents (despite the $1.29 pricing for some of them), enough so that I did a quick double take at the "eight songs for nine dollars" price.

And the latest copyright/Internet/music debate: the International Music Score Library Project is posting free classical music scores online:
He shows publishers little sympathy.

"In many cases these publishers are basically getting the revenue off of composers who are dead for a very long time," Mr. Guo said. "The Internet has become the dominant form of communication. Copyright law needs to change with it. We want people to have access to this material to foster creativity. Personally I don’t feel pity for these publishers."

Those who "cling to their old business model," he added, will simply fade away.

But publishers point out that users of the site can miss the benefit of some modern editions that may be entitled to copyright protection -- and thus not part of the public domain -- because of significant changes to the music, such as corrections and editing marks based on years of scholarship about the composer's intention.

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February 18, 2011

A Marketplace for Used Digital Music?
by David Harrell
This is going to be interesting. From a press release for ReDigi:
This summer, music lovers everywhere will finally be able to do the impossible: legally sell their digital music files and buy other people's used music at a fraction of the price. A group of MIT and Cambridge-based geniuses has solved the most pressing problem of the digital music age and will soon extend invitations to experience the limited early release of ReDigi, the world's first online marketplace to legally recycle, buy and sell, used digital music files.
As I've written here before, the loss of resale value is too often overlooked in discussions about the pricing of digital content. A few years back, I did an analysis of CD and digital album prices relative to used CD values and came to the conclusion that, in general, "digital albums need to be priced approximately three to five dollars below the total cost of the equivalent CD to compensate for the loss of a resale value."

While I'm all for applying the right of first sale to digital content, I have to think that music labels and publishers are going to fight this concept tooth and nail. The user agreements for Amazon MP3 and eMusic, for example, all prohibit the transfer of purchased music files to other parties. (Surprisingly, I can't find explicit language in the iTunes user agreement forbidding the transfer of files to another party, but I assume it's in there somewhere.) ReDigi, however, claims to have come up with a way to make it legal, and is also promising a revenue share of some sort with labels and artists:
Along with giving users the power to recycle their digital music files, the ReDigi's Marketplace also aims to help strengthen the music industry through the ReDigi Foundation program, which grants a share of proceeds from all music sales to both artists and record labels each and every time a track resells. had a similar proposal for sharing 20% of its revenue from CD trades with artists, but never implemented it before the service was sold to Apple and shuttered.

related: The Digital Pricing Conundrum Part IV: The Loss of Resale, Owes Me Sixty Cents


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February 17, 2011

A Feature Request for iTunes 11
by David Harrell
Being a cheapskate, I hate to pay for digital downloads of tracks that I already own. That is, it seems silly to buy an entire album if -- thanks to a compilation album or label/band giveaways -- a couple tracks from it are already sitting in my iTunes library. I realize this attitude seems less than generous to the artists I like, but in the case of my eMusic subscription, it means I'll use the money for other songs/albums.

The workaround, assuming the "album price" is less than the cost of the remaining songs, is to purchase the rest of the album and then fiddle with the track info for the tracks I already owned to create a version of the full album. This can be a tricky process, as a discrepancy for a single piece of information (a different genre for one song, for example) will cause the album to play out of order. And if you have to spend much time on it, it's just not worth the fuss to save 79 cents.

So I'd love to see an "add track to album" feature in iTunes that would: 1. automatically match the song/album info and tags for all of the tracks on the album, and, 2. match the relative volumes of songs coming from sources that were mastered at different levels. (Yes, iTunes already has its "Sound Check" feature, but it doesn't completely correct the latter issue, at least not for me.)


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February 11, 2011

Follow Friday Fun: @discographies
by David Harrell
I'm late to the party on this one, but @discographies is hilarious. The Twitter feed assesses an act's entire studio output in 140 characters.

A few favorites:
Van Halen: 1-6 Sean Connery; 7-10 Roger Moore; 11 George Lazenby.

Eric Clapton: 1-8, 11-18 displays of "chops," uninspired blues shuffles, mid-tempo choogle, shitty songwriting; 9-10 and Phil Collins, too!

Jane's Addiction: 1 Drugs won't make you Lou Reed. 2 Big-ass riffing won't make you Led Zeppelin. 3 Persistence won't make you interesting.

The Police: "Suspects were arraigned & charged with [1-3] attempted reggae, impersonating a punk, [4] aggravated pomposity & [5] stalking."
More here.


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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