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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December 12, 2012

A Quick Review of NoiseTrade
by David Harrell
NoiseTrade banner
I've been testing the NoiseTrade site/widget for the past week and, for the most part, really like it. NoiseTrade is a promotional platform, not a digital music store, though some of its functionality overlaps with the features offered by sites such as Bandcamp.

The concept is simple -- artists can create albums of up to 20 tracks, which listeners can download in exchange for providing an e-mail address and zip code. Albums are downloaded as zip files of 192k mp3s. All downloads are free, with the option to tip the artist $1 to $25. Labels can also use the service to create sampler albums. The service is free to use, with NoiseTrade taking a 20% cut of any tip money. Artists or labels receive the remaining 80%, after any credit card or PayPal fees.

The site is well designed, and individual artist/label pages can link to official websites and social media sites, as well as multiple stores (iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, etc.). Yet NoiseTrade doesn't try to do everything and doesn't offer a ton of flexibility. There's only widget design available and the suggested tip amount always defaults to $6. And you can't allow users to download individual tracks, only the entire album, though you can set up a single song as an "album." Some artists offer a full album, a sampler from a single album, or a compilation of tracks from multiple releases. Whatever you do, it's one album per artist name, and you can't create pages/widgets for multiple albums without resorting to alternate artist names. Josh Rouse, for example, has an album under his own name and one as Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations.

While most of the artists using the service aren't well known, there are a decent number of names you might recognize, including Andrew Bird, Sloan, Aimee Mann, Sufjan Stevens, and the Civil Wars. At the risk of sounding slightly hypocritical (I'm hawking my own unknown music) that's a good thing, as even adventurous music fans want to see a few familiar names on a music site.

My overall take is that while NoiseTrade only does a few things, it does them well. (Though that makes me wish it had more features, mainly the ability to upload multiple albums.) I'd love to learn more details about how well the tipping system works on average -- the percentage of people who tip and the average amount. The total NoiseTrade downloads for the Layaways are still too few to make any sort of estimate, and it seems likely that tipping rate/amount will vary, based on the quality of the individual release. But I'll post an update after the holiday season about our download count and the tipping rate.

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December 06, 2012

Thursday Odds and Ends: Apple Goes to 11
by David Harrell
Walt Mossberg of the WSJ likes the new iTunes:
I've been testing this major new version, called iTunes 11, and I consider it a significant improvement in the look, feel, speed and function of the program, which had become somewhat bloated, sluggish and dense over the years as new features were added.
But Slate's Farhad Manjoo isn't a fan of the new version, or iTunes in general:
Is the new iTunes any better? Not markedly, to my eye. I've been using it for a few hours now. Naturally, the interface has been completely redesigned, though it's too early for me to tell whether the new version is better or just different. Now, instead of a pane of options on the left side, you click between functions using buttons and menus on the top. Is this a genuine improvement, or just a face-lift masking the rot beneath? I suspect the latter: While some parts of iTunes move a little bit faster (the iOS app management screen, for example, used to be unusably slow; now it's OK) most of it still feels lumbering.
Also from Slate, some advice on gift wrapping digital books that could also apply to digital music. Suggestion six seems like a really bad idea.

And in the latest issue of TapeOp magazine, Jeff Lynne says he recorded an album note-for-note ELO remakes because "...there was something I didn't quite get right about the sound of them in those days." But this reviewer hits on something else that probably factored into the decision -- it gives Lynne a new set of master recordings (that he, not his original label, owns) for licensing purposes. I can't fault him (or any musician) for taking steps to maximize earnings from a back catalog, though acts like Squeeze have been more upfront about this particular practice. Glenn Tilbrook explains the motivation for the band's re-make album from 2010:
"Originally, it wasn't going to be an album," says Tilbrook, 52. "It was going to be a series of rerecordings that we could offer to movie and ad people as an alternative to the original versions. But the closer we got to the end of it, the more I realized that we put a big amount of effort into it, and it stood up on its own, as a record."

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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