It's been a few months since my last update about Magnatune. Here's what's up:
1) Web site sales went down slightly over the summer, from about 1000 sales a month to about 800 a month, and otherwise being 1000 a month for the previous 4 months before the summer.
2) because the Magnatune web site is not growing any longer (and I don't yet cover my monthly costs with sales as they are), I'm going to try some new tactics to try to get Magnatune growing again. The focus of the next few months will be on things that could really help Magnatune sell more music. Specifically:
a) we're signing a distribution agreement directly with iTunes, and we've struck up a relationship with some people directly at Apple to promote our music. The deal is that if we give iTunes exclusivity on certain new albums for a few months (i.e., no-one, including us, sells them during that period, except iTunes) they, in exchange, will prominently feature that album. For now, they want to test this out with our classical releases, but if it works out, I hope we can do it for some other genres as well. Talking to the Apple folks, I find it amazing that major labels aren't jumping all over themselves to get a better relationship with Apple, since iTunes is a shoe-in to be the Microsoft Windows of the Internet Music space (i.e. the dominating platform), so far looking like a very benevolent ruler of this space. My interactions with them have been really positive and totally non-arrogant.
b) we're signing directly with emusic.com to have all our music on their subscription service. They've done really well with exotic genres such as world and metal, that we're strong on, and they are very weak in classical, where we're strong and will fllesh in their catalog, so I'm hoping this works out well too.
c) we're going to sell physical CDs from our web site, for $5 more than a download (i.e. $13 to your door, postage included). This is taking way longer than expected to set up, but it's close to occurring. I've delayed announcing the "free download for everyone who bought this year" special until I have the physical CDs actually available.
d) we're shopping to hire a professional music-oriented PR agency. Magnatune isn't getting easy, free press like it used to, but it's still a cool thing, so I hope this will help us get in the spotlight again. We'll see...
What this all means is that I've been putting much less time into new releases and web site tweaks, as these bigger projects take a lot of work (weeks and weeks) and I think it's time for Magnatune to take some big steps to try to continue growing once again.
I've gotten a few worried emails from Magnatune fans thinking that we're vanishing. No, Magnatune isn't going away, it's just that I'll be spending my time trying to broaden my audience beyond the Slashdot/Linux-Journal world, who already know Magnatune well.
FYI, I now live 50% of the time in Berkeley, California, and the other half of the time in London, England. I have an Internet phone, so I can still receive calls at my regular Magnatune telephone number, and my helper in Berkeley handles the incoming postal mail, so you should continue using the addresses and phone numbers you have for me.
My wife and Magnatune cofounder Jan ran a blog of our London experience, which, if you're curious, you can see here: http://blogs.magnatune.com/london (the first entry is here http://blogs.magnatune.com/london/2004/06/london_calling.html)