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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December 30, 2011

The Top 7 Digital Audio Insider Posts of 2011
by David Harrell
The seven posts below generated the most page views, comments, and/or e-mails for this site over the past year. Thanks to everyone who read, commented, linked, and e-mailed. Happy New Year!

Spot the Spotify Payment
...the average streaming rate is small enough that it'd take 244 Spotify spins to equal the label cut of a 99-cent iTunes download. But the real question here, in terms of artist/label compensation, is what Spotify activity actually represents. That is, is it simply a new revenue stream, providing income from listeners who don't normally purchase music, or is there also a cannibalization factor, where some listeners opt for streaming over actual purchase? read more

A Few Thoughts On Pandora
Does Pandora's Music Genome-based programming give it a competitive advantage? That is, does it result in a better listener experience than with Internet stations like, where "similar" artists are determined by listener overlap (listeners of artist A also like artist B), as opposed to song qualities? read more

The Downside of eMusic's Currency Pricing
Even after last year's subscription changes, average album prices at eMusic are no doubt less than the average prices at iTunes, Amazon MP3, and other digital music stores. Yet I believe that eMusic's switch from a credits system to currency pricing, in combination with Amazon MP3's $5 album deals and daily specials, presents a real challenge to eMusic's subscription-based business model. read more

How Much Does Rhapsody Pay Artists?
Here's how I'm paid for my self-released albums in the Rhapsody catalog:

1. A penny per stream. For albums distributed by CD Baby and TuneCore, I receive one cent per listener stream. CD Baby, which uses a commission business model, takes a 9% cut, resulting in a .91 cent payout per stream. TuneCore, which charges an annual maintenance fee for each album, passes on the full one cent. This one-cent rate has remained steady and unchanged from September 2004 to the present. read more

The Convergence of Owning Music and Renting Music
There are real differences, both logistical and psychological, between owning and renting music. But I'll bet that the preference for ownership will decrease as the listening experience for "owned" and "rented" music converges. read more

The Ethics of Downloading Music You've Already Paid For
An eMusic subscriber loses $200 worth of his downloads and posts this question to eMusic's message board: Is it ethical to download those same tracks from illegal sources (such as P2P sites)?

I was somewhat surprised by the responses -- by more than a 3 to 1 ratio, his fellow subscribers voted "no," most of them rather emphatically. Then again, maybe that's not surprising, as eMusic subscribers are a self-selected group of music fans who are willingly paying for digital content that they could probably download elsewhere free. read more

A Funny Spotify Experiment: Why Judas Priest Sounds Just Like Jerry Reed
The fact that the Spotify interface allows you to play tracks stored in your iTunes and Windows Media libraries made me wonder what happens when you use Spotify to "stream" a track you already own. From a performance standpoint, it makes sense for Spotify to pull the file from your hard drive. And doing so would also -- in theory -- relieve Spotify of any obligation to compensate the record company for that play, as the situation would be no different than listening to a track in iTunes. read more

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December 28, 2011

Another Advantage for Google
by David Harrell
Something I noticed for the first time this morning -- Google is plugging its Android music market on its home page:

ad for Google music on Google's home page

Given the number of page views, Google's ability to advertise on its main page gives it a huge built-in advantage for almost any market.


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

December 15, 2011

Christmas Layaways
by David Harrell
My apologies for the lack of recent posts -- I'm working on an in-depth piece on the economics of Spotify for next week. It'll address the cannibalization issue and the recent decisions by various acts and labels to withhold new material from the streaming service.

In the meantime, if you're in the mood for some seasonal music, please give a listen to "Maybe Next Year," the 2009 holiday album by the Layaways:

If you like what you hear, we're giving away a free download of O Christmas Tree and a free download of Silent Night. The full album is available at the usual digital outlets -- iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, Bandcamp, and Android Music. And it's streaming on Spotify, of course!

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

December 08, 2011

Thursday Odds and Ends: Digital Magazine Archives, eMusic Redesign, and Rumblefish and CD Baby
by David Harrell

I'm no follower of fashion, but as someone who read every single issue of Rolling Stone in my high school library's archive from cover to cover, I'm intrigued by Vogue's new online archive:
The result is a pop-culture data mine covering 120 years of American desires and aspirations. More than 425,000 images, 300,000 ads, and 100,000 articles, dating back to 1892, have been fully indexed and are searchable.
With an annual fee of $1,575, it's priced for business customers, not consumers. Will this sort of thing eventually become available for every magazine? I find it easy to get lost in the free Life magazine archive at Google Books.

The new site design of eMusic isn't drawing raves from subscribers, at least from the ones who are posting to eMusic's message boards. One commenter thinks the new design was actually optimized for the iPad:
Maybe I am reaching, but it looks like they want to make it presentable on the IPAD, but you can use it anywhere. Getting around the site is much easier on touch screen than by mouse.
Finally, Rumblefish will soon make the entire CD Baby catalog available for licensing and will add 3.5 million CD Baby-distributed tracks to YouTube's AudioSwap library. While it's a new outlet for CD Baby artists not in the AudioSwap program, the influx of additional content means musicians who are already there will have more competition for placement. As I noted last summer, my band receives a very modest royalty payment every quarter for YouTube plays of our songs that have been "swapped" into videos like this one:

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

December 01, 2011

Some Details About the Google Music Store and Self-Released Artists
by David Harrell
Google Music banner
One pleasant surprise: Google Music waives the $25 setup fee if an act is already included Google's database. (Thanks to Chris, who mentioned the fee waiver in a comment to my post at Hypebot.) The Layaways were already there, so I claimed the page for no charge.

Pricing Details:
Albums can be designated as "free" or for any dollar amount, as long as it ends in 49 or 99 cents.

Individual songs can be priced as "free," 49 cents, 69 cents, 99 cents, $1.29, or "album only."

You can edit album and individiual song prices after an album is published, but the changes aren't instant, as they are with Bandcamp. They do, however, appear in a few hours.

There's no need to enter a UPC barcode number for a release, or ISRC codes for individual songs. So, like Bandcamp, Google Music makes it easy to release collections of demos, live performances, etc.

Currently, Google only allows basic control over artist pages. You can add an artist bio, one picture, and links to your Google+ page (of course!) and other websites, but that's about it. At the album level, there's no ability to add descriptive text, press quotes or reviews, or album credit information.

Overall, the process was relatively straightforward and reasonably fast. I uploaded audio tracks and the artwork for the Layaways 2009 holiday album late Monday afternoon and it was available in the Android Music Market by Wednesday morning.

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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