Tue 2 Oct 2007
You’ll have all seen this by now, I guess, but while the muse is playing Knock Down Ginger I may as well join the growing throng.
For starters: Radiohead–probably the biggest unsigned band in the world–is putting out said album, In Rainbows, without any record label. For another: If you want to buy a digital download of the album, you go to Radiohead’s Web site and pay . . . whatever price you want to pay.
Someone needed to take an innovative step in this market and, unsurprisingly given their history, Radiohead are the ones to do it. They don’t need the money - and I kind of suspect they don’t really want it anyhow. In any case they can fill out as many arenas as they want to. Meaning: there is little down-side here for them.
How history will judge this first step, as a gallant but ultimately doomed bid for freedom or as a giant leap for mankind, will only become apparent when the money starts flowing in - or not as the case may be. When we can take a good look at the model and see how it works. Only then will it become clear whether it can be extended to bands who do need the money to buy their food. A validated model will allow almost any band the freedom to liberate themselves from their record companies and make their art and their money as they wish.
I think that this will work and I think it will work huge. When faced with the option of paying or not paying most people will pay. Whether they pay 50p, a quid or Â£9.99 they will pay. And if they come in numbers the oft neglected economic principle of revenue = average cost per unit * number of units sold comes into play. I suspect they will sell a huge number of records at a much smaller average cost.
My gut feel? The average cost will be somewhere between 3 and 5 pounds tending toward Â£5-00 because some people will pay around Â£10-00 because that is a round number and what you usually pay. More people will pay nothing than pay Â£10-00 and most of the rest will mentally split the difference and pay Â£5-00.
For a bit of fun go to the Radiohead Store - order a download and click the question mark from the basket.