Radiohead's 'free' experiment works; major indies ready to follow suit

Site traffic up 1,100%.

Google searches up 1,000%.

Sales of the box-set surpassing 'set your own price' downloads, according to a band spokesperson.

It appears that Radiohead's experiment to increase sales by letting their fans set the price for their new album has been a rousing success.

And that success hasn't been lost on the rest of the industry. Major indie bands Oasis and Jamiroquai are said to be considering one-upping Radiohead by giving away their next albums.

"They’ll all be thinking about it now," said Stuart Clarke at Music Week. "Any big name that is out of contract such as Jamiroquai and Oasis will now see it as an option."

Hmmmmm....can anyone think of any other major indies that this might appeal to? I can immediately think of two bands that have already experimented with free downloads that something like this would be perfect for.

I still want to see bands expand this to get the fans online more involved. What about a widget that I can put here that lets you hear the music and if you like it, you can buy it with me getting a cut of the sale? Same thing could work for concert tickets, and have the widget offer the visitor customized local info, for example if they live in Seattle and I have a widget for The Donnas, let them know that tickets go on sale next Saturday for The Donnas' concert in their city. And this could be extended to Facebook, hells bells I've got a freakin' MASH quotes app on my profile now, so I'm sure that something artist-specific could be created (case in point, I found out about this story by reading a note that Tamera had posted to her Facebook profile).

The bands have the right idea by making it easier for fans to hear the music, banking on that leading to increased demand to buy merchandise and attend live shows. But they are still missing the boat a bit when it comes to empowering fans to help them build and spread interest for their music.

What do you think? If your favorite artist gave you the chance to put a widget on your blog or Facebook profile that would let visitors hear and buy their music (with you getting a small portion of the sale), and would also promote the band, would you add it? I definitely would for certain artists, and I'm guessing that most fans would love to help promote their favorite artists for free, they just need the tools to do so.


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posted by Mack Collier @ 7:53 PM,

8 Comments:

At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Matt Dickman said...

Mack -- I think this is a trend that's not going away. Bands are getting so little money from the CD sales anyway, why not cut out the middle and go right to the fans. Use them as the distributor. Make it easy to share, copy and interact with the content.

I wouldn't be opposed to a widget from a band I love. It adds a bit of personality to my page/blog and a little in the pocket as well.

 
At 11:56 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Bands are getting so little money from the CD sales anyway, why not cut out the middle and go right to the fans. Use them as the distributor. Make it easy to share, copy and interact with the content."

The problem is, any act still tied to a major label can forget this. This is a big reason why Terry McBride is encouraging all his clients to move to their own label when their current big-label contracts expire. They then own the music and have complete control of how it is distributed.

What we can hope is that such experiments continue to work, so that it will prompt more big names to follow Radiohead's lead.

The funniest part is that when it's all said and done, we'll probably see that the original Napster model that the record industry claimed would kill it, has actually saved the music.

 
At 12:24 PM, Anonymous lisa kribs said...

Mack, I'm a noob here and have just been following your blog for a couple months. So thanks for the inspiring content and interesting posts!

Radiohead are true tastemakers.

Not only were the steps they took ballsy, but will certainly change the industry.
There was a time where album release parties were anticipated events, and people would spill out the doors of album shops waiting in line-and ever since the dawn of mp3's leaking this sense of community has faded. However, the evening “In Rainbows” was released there was that lull in the “blog land” that used to exist.

Just as napster inadvertently saved the music, much credit to radiohead spear-heading this experiment...

 
At 12:51 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Mack, I'm a noob here and have just been following your blog for a couple months. So thanks for the inspiring content and interesting posts!"

Lisa you rule, the noob label is now toast, thanks for adding to the community here!

"Just as napster inadvertently saved the music, much credit to radiohead spear-heading this experiment..."

Yep the 'set your own price' release of In Rainbows could really end up being a watershed moment for the music industry, especially now in the digital age. And it's only just beginning, there's some 'behind the scenes' work being done to move toward giving the fans the ability to share and distribute the music. Eventually I think we'll get to the point where the artists and fans are working together to sell, market, and distribute the music, completely cutting the 'big label' out of the picture.

Exciting times!

 
At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Martin said...

The funny thing is, when I went to set my price for the download, I was happy to offer 10 bucks - when I could have paid a dollar (or a pound, but you get the point). When I was talking with a few of my friends independent of each other, they had both done the same thing. Same price, same level of (avoided) guilt at the thought of going cheap.

It's kind of like the NPR/ PBS model - pay for what you value, and don't be a jerk about it. Wonder what would happen if, say, Mattel went that route with their toys? Might be a uniquely interesting way to immediately measure (the much balleyhooed) idea of brand-loyalty.

 
At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Matt Dickman said...

Mack -- It's funny you mention the Napster model. I can honestly tell you that, when Napster was in its heyday and I was using it consistently I bought a heck of a lot more music. I loved experimenting with new artists and digging deeper. That experimentation drove me to the store to support the artist.

That's just not possible with 15 second cuts from iTunes and the like. I think the open model helps everybody except the labels and I'm sure they won't go quietly.

 
At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about a system where they let the fans download the music for free and donate if they liked it?
I spend way too much on crap cds that i never listen to again...

 
At 7:27 PM, Anonymous David Isserman said...

I read about this and thought it was not only great for creating PR buzz, but also for guiding the music industry.

 

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