Monday, October 15, 2007

Karma Police

Trumping the digital download realm by removing the middlemen all together, Radiohead has decided to allow fans to download their new album In Rainbows for whatever price they choose to pay. Want to pay $20 (the websites is in British Pounds) for the new record? Go for it. Want to pay $0.00? That's OK too. The band is only releasing the digital download through their website, but they are also releasing a collector's box edition that includes a free digital download of the album, plus other tracks, the CD's booklet and artwork and other bonus material as well. Now this may seem like a bold move, but think about it logically for a second and you will see that this could in fact turn out to be the best career move (or the worst) they have ever made. Bands nowadays make the majority of their money from touring and licensing agreements and sponsorships. The artist is always the last to get paid from the record company. But by taking other outlets like iTunes and brick retail stores out of the equation, they can control the pricing (or let the fans choose). And surprisingly enough, early figures show that Radiohead fans are indeed choosing to pay for the record than to download it for free, some even paying more than the CD might cost in a retail store or as a digital download from one of the many online music vendors. Now does this mean that other artists will follow suit? I doubt it (and it certainly won't be Metallica who does). However, you may remember that the Offspring did something like this back in the nineties, when they allowed their hit single "Pretty Fly For A White Guy" to be downloaded for free. It ended up becoming the most downloaded song of 1998, also contributing to Americana becoming the third biggest selling album of that year. What Radiohead is doing is essentially an extension of that experiment, although in a much broader sense. How will the album eventually do? Well, it's Radiohead, so I am guessing that even if they do lose money on the album (and I don't think they will) they will more than make up for it by touring. It is interesting to see how this works out though and, more importantly, what this does for the future of music.

you're turning into something you are not

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