Radiohead Spins Donation Based D.I.Y. Release

Raihead_3Asking fans to pay anything from 1 pence (plus a 45 pence service fee) to whatever they
think is fair for a download, Radiohead is offering their latest release "In Rainbows" for
pre-order.  "So far" the download or a 2 vinyl disc + CD + download package for 40 Pounds Sterling is available only via a special band website.

ANALYSIS:  By avoiding all label machinery and going direct to fans with this unique pricing model, Radiohead is maintaining renegade credibility while still monetizing their relationship with an increasingly savvy and fickle indie fanbase that has come to expect music for free. 
They’ve also turned their fans and the entire blogasphere into their free promotion machine.

Critics will point out that the band is able to make this leap only because of years of expensive promotion from EMI.  But the groups still deserves points for the bold move and with luck someday they will share the average price fans saw fit to pay  so that this experiment can serve to guide and embolden others

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  1. As you have rightly pointed out, this is not an option for every band, but mainly for the A-list bands that actually benefited from the old system to get to where they are. But if they now subsequently decide to go totally “indie”, where are the major labels going to find the mega-revenues that used to subsidize the rest of the money-losing acts in their stable?
    As Thom Yorke himself wryly observed in an interview with New York Times in July last year.
    “I’m not really into the idea of picking an enormous fight now because I think the structure of the music business is in a state of collapse anyway. You might as well just let it get on with it. There’s no point in us trying to help. And it makes you sound really arrogant, like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to mess up the system.’ The system’s built us, so that would be a bit silly, wouldn’t it?”
    More details here: http://www.music2dot0.com/archives/47

  2. This move will play on the psyche of an entire generation of people that have used the web as their main channel of discovering new music. I just hope that when this is all said and done, Radiohead will release the figures of what the average person actually paid. These numbers will make every label in the world shit themselves. Well, maybe.
    Also, this move will raise questions about the seeming slap in the face to record stores. At first, I really thought that indie stores will be super pissed and burn Radiohead records in the streets. Well, not so fast. If you stop and think about it, this entire packaging scheme actually drives the value through the fucking roof because Radiohead fans will absolutely go to stores to purchase this uber-cd release. I hope indie record stores take a deep breath before they start smashing Radiohead records in the aisles. With an actual product of value and uniqueness, Radiohead may actually have an incredibly positive impact on driving traffic to record stores. Everything just changed. In the not so distant future, just putting an album out on CD in a jewel case will no longer be enough. Could the box set be the future of physical products? Holy shit.
    The last bit is the utter disregard of lead time in press. They are totally avoiding leaks by putting this out all at once. When I first started thinking about this, my immediate concern was that, with no press time, who the hell is going to write about it and review it? It was at this point that I logged into my RSS feed reader to see if anyone was writing about it. Every music blog in the world had a bit about it. I shit you not. It is a music press coup unlike anything the world has ever seen. Most notable and interesting of all, Billboard didn’t have a post up about it when I first logged in. Only music blogs. Fans of music. Mainstream press, the folks the industry as a whole is aiming to please is now on the backside playing catch-up.

  3. @ maths:
    If older, superstar acts leave their labels, the labels will still get revenue from the back catalog. That’s key. I think it’s safe to say that the mega-deals are not as financially successful as they are sensational. REM and Bruce Springsteen, for example, are past their sales prime but command huge contracts. The catalog is practically pure profit.

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