Radiohead and all that

As I suggest in the book, there are lessons to be learnt from the music industry. And over there, the buzz is on major artists bypassing the major labels. First, Prince with his ‘free CD’ with every newspaper strategy; then Nine Inch Nails dumping their record company and more recently hints that Madonna might be doing the same. But the biggest buzz has been around Radiohead releasing its new album online and asking fans to pay what they see fit for the music. Now, initial numbers are in, and a survey by The Times in London is crowing about how the average price paid by fans is ‘only $9.’ (For the moment, we’ll set aside questions about the methodology of the survey, and note that Radiohead has not yet provided any ‘official’ data.)

Two points to be made in response to that article. Firstly, it suggests a price that fans are willing to pay. Remember, there was no coercion here, they could pay nothing for the new album if they wanted. But the overall average ‘donation’ was nine bucks. Which to me suggests that if record companies charged nine bucks for good new music (instead of thirty in Australian CD shops) then people would pay rather than ‘steal’.

Secondly. Radiohead probably made more money at nine bucks a copy direct from fans than thirty bucks a copy via the traditional intermediaries…

Of course, not every band – or author – can do this; but the reality of the download is that you *can* cut out some middlemen, reward the artist appropriately, and keep the fans happy. In the book world, many have suggested that giving away e-books is a good way to sell p-books; and there is much to be said for experimenting with new models for earning a crust from books. I suspect this isn’t the last we hear of such examples…


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