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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May 15, 2012

Tuesday Odds and Ends: Long Tail Content, Occupy This Album
by David Harrell
As noted in a comment by Glenn Peoples, the 90% figure is too high. Still, this analysis by Mark Mulligan suggests that a huge percentage of the iTunes catalog is made up of cover/tribute songs:
...I looked at the available tracks on iTunes for 10, randomly selected, top tier artists (see figure). The startling key takeaway is that on average just 10% of the tracks listed for an artist is actually music by that artist. And bear in mind that many of those tracks are duplicates. The average U2 song for example, is listed multiple times ranging from original albums, remastered albums, EPs, greatest hits, compilations etc.
Over at the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal looks at Shutterstock. It's another example of how "Long Tail" content can be lucrative to firms that aggregate and sell it, though generally not for the individual content creators:
It's an interesting game that Shutterstock is playing. Individual customers pay an average of about $3 per image. That's dirt cheap, but they make up for it on volume, bringing in $120 million of revenue in 2011. On the producer side, my read of their SEC filing is that they paid out $39.3 million in royalties to 35,000 contributors. So the mean contributor is making something like $1,100 a year by posting their work on the site. (I don't know exactly what the distribution looks like; we only know that no entity received more than 10 percent of the royalties paid out.)
David Lowery, of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, is blogging about music economics and artists rights at the Trichordist. The full version of his "Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss?" presentation is here.

Occupy This Album cover art
Finally, "Occupy This Album" was released today by Razor & Tie records. The compilation benefit album features tracks by well-known artists such as Jackson Browne, Yo La Tengo, Deborah Harry, Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, and Loudon Wainwright III. It also includes some songs from lesser-known acts like my band the Layaways. Just $9.99 for 100 tracks -- available now from iTunes and Amazon MP3.

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May 01, 2012

Tuesday Odds and Ends
by David Harrell
Chris Randall of Analog Industries calls out
What they've done is create a site that is a separate front end for AMG's database, where you can pay for the opportunity to correct it.
And, as noted in the comments to the post, here's the best part -- if you ever cancel your subscription, all of your corrections disappear:
If you stop paying, your Professional Profile will revert to a Basic Profile and the updates and corrections you entered will no longer be included in your profile.
A documentary about the "Wrecking Crew" studio musicians is in limbo because of the cost and logistics of negotiating rights to use clips of the music:
Some members of the ensemble, most notably the guitarist Glen Campbell and the pianist Leon Russell, later became stars in their own right. But as hired hands the musicians had no ownership stake in or legal claim to the songs they recorded, and record company executives who may have felt a debt of gratitude for their contributions at the time have long since departed. As a believer in copyright Mr. Tedesco is philosophical about his situation.

"The reality is that I want to pay," he said. “But the problem is this business. There are just so many people involved, so much turnover, and so many licenses and contracts, at least two different parties for every song, the label and the publisher." He said there were more than 400 different rights holders to be dealt with.
From Evgeny Morozov's The New Republic review of Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography:
The design philosophy of Dieter Rams, Braun's legendary designer, has shaped the feel and the look of Apple's latest products more than any other body of ideas. Since joining Braun in 1955, Rams--who likes to describe his approach to design as "less, but better"--began collaborating with the faculty at the Ulm School of Design, which tried to revive the creative spirit of Bauhaus with a modicum of cybernetics and systems theory. Eventually Rams produced his own manifesto for what good design should accomplish. His "ten principles of good design" encouraged budding designers to embrace innovation and make products that were useful but environmentally friendly, thorough but simple, easy to understand but long-lasting, honest but unobtrusive. Rams wanted his products to be like English butlers: always available, but invisible and discreet.
Rams's principles, and photos of some of his incredibly modern-looking late '50s to early '70s designs for Braun, are 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