A Good Radiohead for Business?
October 1, 2007 1:27 PM
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Radiohead to give away free download of new album
Major political alt-rockers Radiohead have a new album that is brewing a storm of interest due to its unique distribution model. The band will distribute the new album
independent of a major record label from their webpage.
Fans have two options for acquiring the new album. The first is a discbox set containing CDs, heavyweight 12” vinyls, supplementary artwork, extra tracks and booklets. This package costs 40 pounds, about $81.75 U.S., includes an on-line download, and is set to ship by December 3, 2007.
The real head-turner here is option number two: download the album at whatever price you choose. That’s right, customers are given the option to pay anywhere from zero to 99.99 GBP, the latter limited by the size of the price entry field.
The full length MP3 set will be available for download on October 10, 2007 using an activation code e-mailed to customers who choose to “purchase” the download. Customers purchasing the discbox will also be able to download the album on the tenth.
It is hard to say at this point whether this approach will prove to be a competitive business model, but it is certain to generate tremendous interest and accolades from Radiohead’s fans.
It is more difficult than one might think to argue against this model considering the nature of the Web 2.0 economy.
Many of the Internet’s most popular products, Google, Yahoo! Mail and Wikipedia, all give the majority of their content to users for free. Further more the barrier to piracy is so low that most content can be taken for free by anyone willing. Author Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail” is going to explore this topic in his next work, tentatively called “
Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price
So what we have here is an outline of a business model for the “Brave Free World.” Embrace the fee-free zeitgeist of the web. Decriminalize the consumers who won’t pay for content. Maximize your profit by capturing the most wealthy few percentile of customers by maximizing their exposure to your core product.
In this case the core product is Radiohead, not the album. Giving away the album should greatly broaden its distribution and the exposure of wealthy consumers. They will capture the wealth of this upper crust through high value packages like the discbox, world tours, and who knows what other cool things that are worth paying for.
The only piece of the Web 2.0 business model that Radiohead’s plan is missing is embedded advertising. Given the band’s philosophies, I don’t think we will be seeing this anytime soon.
I know everyone is wondering, so I did some research and yes, entering zero for price really does work. This is not the worst thing that could happen to the band since I will pay for concert tickets to see the band, as I have before, and if the album knocks my socks off I will also pay for a hard copy of the CD.
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RE: This would be good news if...
10/1/2007 5:06:06 PM
That's funny. I'm a big Radiohead fan, and I remember seeing them once on Saturday Night Live when they played Idioteque. It was the first time I heard anything from Kid A, and I remember my jaw dropping down and asking my wife WTF is that?
They even made this top 10 list of most memorable SNL moments:
Even rock fans who've never understood the appeal of Radiohead's tuneless, quasi-experimental phase can wrap their heads around the band's SNL performance of "Idioteque," from perhaps its most "difficult" album, Kid A. On disc, the Kid A material is ragged and jagged, and at times purposefully off-putting. Live, "Idioteque" in particular becomes a kind of invigorating nightmare, as Thom Yorke whines about an "ice ace coming… this is really happening" while the band cranks out an otherworldly, escalating noise. When the song abruptly stops, it's almost a relief. The world ends. The world spins on.
But after listening to the CD a few times, it really caught on for me, as did Amnesiac. If you haven't listened to Hail to the Thief, then you really should give it a listen. It's more straight-forward than Kid A and Amnesiac.
RE: This would be good news if...
10/2/2007 6:08:17 PM
I saw them in Vancouver on the Hail to the Thief tour (late Aug 2003) and it was one of the best concerts I've seen live. As you point out, the Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail stuff is amazing live, a lot different than on the album. I personally prefer OK Computer and The Bends, but I like it all. Hopefully they do a world tour with a few stops in Canada.
FWIW I will probably buy this for $10, even if it's crappy 128kbit. No one has brought up the audio quality yet, one of the main reasons to buy CDs is if you have a decent sound setup, as even 320kbit/V0 VBR sounds like crap compared to CD. Maybe they will have a FLAC?
RE: This would be good news if...
10/5/2007 10:36:59 AM
KMFDM sells their music directly as well. They don't have a pay-what-you-want option but its normally 10$ +/- a few for an album's download @ 196k.
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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