The Decemberists and the ROI of social networking

Decemberists Billboard Portland

Portland has been in the news a lot lately, not least because of all the fuss around the IFC show 'Portlandia,' that features our very own Carrie Brownstein and her sidekick, Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen. And today we have local indie heroes The Decemberists sitting atop the Billboard charts.

Congratulations are in order. As we know, music sales especially of full length albums have been in the dumper lately, and although The Decemberists reached the #1 spot with sales of only 93,567 copies, it's a great achievement given the apathy folks seem to have for buying music. It's worth taking a look at how transparent Billboard has become about how low numbers of album sales can get a band to number one these days. Cake was number one last week with 44,000 sales and this week Billboard reports that their "sales fell off a cliff.."

Interesting times.

These stories have me wondering about the power (or not) of social networking in driving sales. I took a look at The Decemberists' social network world and discovered the following:

Their mainman, Colin Meloy has a Twitter account @colinmeloy and he has 1,244,545 followers. The Decemberists Twitter account @TheDecemberists has 125,741 followers. Colin Meloy's Facebook page has 2,968 fans and The Decemberists page has 258,706 fans. Their Myspace page has had 3,955,406 profile views and they have 108,868 "friends."

So my un-scientific survey shows that they have an online audience of roughly 1,740,828 if we put aside the 3,955,406 profile views on MySpace. This means that 5.37% of their available online audience bought the album last week.

Of course there are many other drivers of sales for the band. There's the YouTube video. There's also FM radio if that still counts, and I feel certain that having the album streaming in full on NPR didn't hurt. Then there's the music blogs too.

So a question to you the reader - given this large of an online audience, do we consider 5.37% of them making a purchase to be considered a high return on investment for the band's online efforts?