Because Magnatune isn't about major label music, I have always suspected that we had a fairly long tail -- that lots of people listened to lots of different music and that we weren't especially "hit oriented".
In this blog entry, I crunch the numbers and compare the long tail of our two businesses: selling single album downloads, and the behavior of our unlimited download members. As you'd expect, when people can download albums without an incremental cost ($15/month for unlimited access, vs $8 per album) they tend to download a more diverse range of music.
This chart shows what percentage of Magnatune's catalog is downloaded every X number of days.
Some facts to pull out from this chart:
- Every day, 43% of our music catalog is downloaded by our members. After a week that number grows to 78% and at 14 days 94% of our catalog has been exercised (downloaded at least once). That means the entire catalog really is being used, which is fantastic!
- Each day, 1% of our albums are sold as single-album downloads. After a week, this grows to 9%, and after 30 days this is 36%. Because single-album downloads require a "purchase decision", a less diverse range were sold: many great albums on Magnatune remain undiscovered each month by single-album purchasers.
Note that these single-album download statistics are from the entire past year, so they include data before our switch two days ago to focussing on our membership business.
Much more of our music catalog gets exercised with download memberships than with single album sales. That's good news for several reasons:
- a) the founding goal behind Magnatune is to support and promote interesting, unusual and endangered music
b) more of our musicians get more fans with the download-membership model
c) our members are interested in all the music on the site, not just the most recently released stuff
Here is another way of looking at our "long tail": downloads of a catalog as a percentage of total downloads. Ie: does the most popular stuff account for most of the downloads?
- In a 30 day period, our top 10 albums accounted for 23% of single album sales. The top 20 represented 30%.
- In comparison, unlimited download members' top 10 represented 11% of the catalog. Their top 20 represented 17%.
As a chart, this is:
The most popular single album sale in the past 30 days ("Braid Soundtrack") represented 12%, whereas the most popular member download (Daniel Estrem, JS Bach vol 2) represented 1.7%.
In both scenarios, Magnatune experiences a fairly long tail, with the top 20 titles representing just 30% of single-album sales, and just 17% of album downloads.
Here is a chart showing the tail itself:
Note: since the 2nd most popular single-album sale represented 1.6% of sales, we scaled the chart to 2%, so that the Braid Soundtrack (12%) is off the top of the chart (that helps make the chart more readable).
On this chart, you can see that single album sales have a steeper decline than membership, but not hugely different.
In other words, no matter how we sell our music, all of the catalog gets purchased about evenly. Unfortunately, since single album sales at Magnatune have been on a decline for 4 years, each artist's numbers were fairly small, though evenly distributed among all our artists.
With unlimited download memberships, each musicians sees quite a few more downloads of their music, so that artists get quite a few more fans because of Magnatune.