Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lower the price and more people pay the piper

The TimesOnline is reporting that 3 out of 5 didn't pay a penny for the latest Radiohead album when offered the chance to download and pay what they wanted.

The average price paid was just £2.90, globally.

And there is much wringing of hands about this in the Times report. How terrible. The grand experiment has failed - is the general sentiment.

But the album has been downloaded 1.2m times in the first month. So the £2.90 a pop (as an average) is not a bad return - given that there are no production costs, and huge cut in marketing and distribution costs.

A bit of context, from everyhit.co.uk:

Lowest-Selling Number One

"The record for a non-limited edition single is "Wonderful" by Ja Rule featuring R Kelly & Ashanti. Entering the chart w/e 6th Nov 2004 it went on to sell a total of 65,000 copies. "

Another upside for Radiohead: Many of those sampling the album 'for free' may yet go on to buy a CD of it - following the same model as those who download free novels online and go on to purchase a hard copy to own on the bookshelf.

Lesson: Careful how you measure success.


  1. Free is good, but also more complicated than you might think:


  2. Oh that's typical, chop the end off...

    it was only html on the end....

  3. The benefits of a "hard copy", as you describe it, will drive sales of books until a suitable digital alternative is found. Until then, comparing books and music in terms of production, distribution and sales seems pre-mature to me.

    I also think the mass-market appeal of artists like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Prince makes them candidates for this business model only because they are already established artists. I haven't heard of too many artists that can make a living in this manner that didn't already have that mass market appeal. Maybe the "Artic Monkeys", but they've long since gone the way of the record label.

    Just my 2 cents (1 pence?)

  4. Hi Dan, Pablo.
    Bit further on this. Maybe take a look at The ClueTrain Manifesto? JP Rangaswami introduced me to the notion of the because effect. I think we see it in action in music right now.
    Bit more on it here: http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/10/music-industry-making-money-because-of.html
    I can see this working for new bands too. By making their music available free they build a fanbase who are willing to go watch them play and perhaps even buy their cds.
    It is what myspace was for, wasn't it?
    The role of record companies was to select which stars would be foisted on to us for our mass consumption.

    The long tail model we are seeing all around us means they can't mediate this process anymore.

    The viral power of the network means we will still have massive hits - but they will be global niche hits created from the edge in rather than the centre, out.

    That's my best guess, anyway.



The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?