Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Radiohead for the Cost of Plain Ol' Radio

Radiohead is releasing a new album. And, folks may download it for whatever they wish to pay. The band is letting consumers set their own price.

This sort of idea is right up Freakonomics author Steven Levitt's alley. He blogged about it today.

What does this mean for music? If one of the biggest bands in the world is giving away their music (or, more accurately, just setting out the e-tip jar), what does that mean for record companies, iTunes, etc.? If people can get Radiohead for free or for their own price, will this be an even greater incentive to not pay for "lesser" music?

Riveting stuff. Brandon/Justin/Derek(s), I expect you will have excellent insight/thoughts here. No pressure.


Brandon Andrew Miles said...

I say more power to them. I am all about artists having more freedom in their product as far as prices, format, etc... I am really interested to see how this goes. Sadly, I know a lot of people who will like it enough to pay money for it, who will not, because they don't pay for any of their music. Just like people will always go buy a steak dinner, knowing they will leave a 50 cent tip.

Cort said...

I really hope they let Levitt or some other economist run some numbers on their sales just for curiosity's sake.

I'd love to see what the avg donation was, the number of people who paid nothing, the most anyone paid, etc.

R. Justin said...

When you spend $15-20 at Best Buy for an album, how much does the artist get? Take a guess.

The answer: About $1.

Also, consider that most record contracts take all expenses OUT OF SALES before the band gets a penny.

So, even if each person only bids $2 (I'm assuming that's a generously low assumed average) for the new Radiohead album, Radiohead will come out no worse than if they'd done it on the label. Plus, they retain entirely their creative license.

Good for them.

There are still plenty of indie labels that treat their artists fairly; Burnt Toast is pretty generous to Foxhole, embraces our ideas for creativity (even if the costs are enormous compared to a typical jewel-case CD run).

Everyone should read THIS ARTICLE, written by producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Danielson, countless others. You'll see what a raw deal the typical major-label band gets, and why most of them only record one or two albums before going the way of the dinosaur.

Hopefully the record industry will meet its paleolithic end real soon.

Derek said...

Reminds me of the move Prince recently made in releasing his newest album more or less for free with the Daily News in England. You could sense the fear in the Music Business's reaction. Of course, when you're as huge as Prince or Radiohead, and with the Internet as your mistress, you're more powerful even than the Corporations.

Still, there are a lot of smaller bands who are going to justify their submission to the Business because of how much easier its money and connections make everything, even if in the end they're getting screwed by it - bands made up less of artists and more of businessmen, who are going to keep working hand in hand with the big four to manufacture the sound they know will sell.

I think Deathcab for Cutie did everyone in independent music a disservice when they decided to go with the major label an album back. I knew it was only a matter of time before the majors picked up the scent of the money they could be making off the fresh sound blooming from below: so they cast their line and Deathcab was one of the first to take the bait.

Brandon Andrew Miles said...

By the way... the record is really good. I'm giving them $10.

Adamma said...

Good for people to know.