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A Buyer's Market: The way we purchase online music

The NDP Group published a study this week that found that only 10% of Amazon MP3 customers had also purchased music on iTunes. The study also found some significant age and gender differences between iTunes and Amazon MP3 customers.  

When I read this, it reminded me of an important point which musicians and labels should always keep in mind: There’s not an online music market; there are many online music markets. And each one is its own little world with its own set of core users.

Most consumers I know, myself included, tend to gravitate towards one or maybe two online music services and use them almost exclusively to acquire music. The Rhapsody folks I know use Rhapsody. The iTunes loyalists use iTunes. The only times they venture out to other services is when they really want something that they can’t find on their preferred site, or in certain instances when they want to buy from an artist directly.

When it comes to marketing your own music, it can be tempting to want to sell your album only on those sites that offer the highest payouts. Or to think you can convince droves of listeners to purchase your music from your own website. But the reality is that it’s very difficult to get customers to go where you want them to go.

It’s critical to make your work available wherever your fans like to purchase music. That includes smaller, niche sites as well as the big retailers. Putting your music in more places is like opening stores in new cities. It can only increase your customer base. And the likelihood that you’ll cut into downloads on one site by making your music available on other sites – even for very cheap or free – is low. If I want to buy your album and I’m an iTunes user, I probably won’t even look at Amazon, Amie Street or other sites where I could find your music for a lower price. I’m just going to buy it from iTunes. It’s convenient and it’s what I know.

Instead of worrying about cannibalizing or losing sales, focus on being present everywhere that your potential fans buy music. You have little to lose and much to gain by doing so.

Reader Comments (5)

I completely agree with you. As a user I myself stick almost exclusively to eMusic for finding and buying new music. Only if something is unavailable on eMusic will I consider using iTunes. As an artist, this has led me to the same conclusion you have reached, namely that one cannot afford to limit the availability of one's music to a few select outlets. Rather, one stands more to gain (as do our fans) by giving music enthusiasts as many options as possible. Musicians are a picky folk - and so, too, are our audiences.

-Mark (

April 18 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Completely common sense logical thoughts: but really needs pointing out: great post!

April 18 | Unregistered Commenterjohn Meredith

Hm, I also agree but the online music market is really in an early stage and at the moment the supply side still has some pressure to change the behaviour or favorite pages of the customer- But sure, it is not easy and online with very good and easy to use online portals you can succeed. For the younger customer the reference for buying online are also the illegal pages like pirate bay - easy to use, "cheap", fast download & one click "buy". There are a lot other setscrews where the companies could improve their position. But definitely for the musicians it is a must to make their music avaiable everywhere and make it cheap to have a good competitive position

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

dead right. if you were a label in the mid 80's distributing physical product to stores, you wouldn't just distribute your product to one store such as walmart. you would distribute to all the major retail players such as walmart, tower, target, sam goodie, camelot music, etc. a musician today has to take this same approach when utilizing all the online outlets that now exist.

April 23 | Unregistered Commenterstinson

Even though the modern music industry has been an extremely closed market system, talent sometimes wins through.

Len Francis Monahan is a rare example of an Indie success story. Len - an internationally acclaimed American singer-songwriter who was born in Toledo, Ohio in a family of eight children and began his adult life as a blue collar worker in America’s industrial rust belt - had great difficulty distributing his music through the normal market channels. Nevertheless, his first record “Being Alone For Christmas” and “Christmas Lullaby” received national and international airplay and his later songs moved onto the national charts..

Len’s songs have also been archived in the National Music Museum in London, England. And his biographical listings include Who's Who in the World (Marquis; 7th, 8th, et al editions); Who's Who in America (Marquis; 57th,et al editions); Who's Who in Entertainment (Marquis, 1st, et al editions); Two Thousand Notable Americans (American Biographical Inst., 3rd ed.); International Who's Who in Music (International Biographical Center, UK) and many more.

So let's hear it for independent talent and the relatively new Internet marketing tool.

"Songs of Len Francis Monahan - A Unique American Independent Artist" may be heard at and at ITunes

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