Sunday, October 7, 2007

Are They Mad?

Radiohead is well known for being off label yet still performing, writing and now releasing songs to the general public. This salvo to the music studios declares that personal control over a band's message is important, but also underscores Radiohead's apparent disinterest in making gobs of money the way the music studios define success: in numbers of albums sold. Instead, Radiohead apparently prefers to perform, which if I remember correctly is how musicians actually make money. (Albums being how the music industry makes money.)

Now Radiohead is redefining that relationship between albums, the band and their customer by self-releasing their most recent album, playing around with two different methods of distribution. First, an expensive deluxe album out in December and second, singles that the customer downloads at will and determines the pricing of! It's this last bit that has everyone scratching their heads, though I'm not sure it's necessarily a bad idea. If, for instance, they were only making $1 off each album with the record studios there's no way the public will pay them worse.

What intrigues me is something I've posted about incoherently in singing Google's praise for creating a diverse money stream that everyone can benefit from with little effort on their part. My interest in this stems from the model for financial freedom and independence that it offers individuals who don't have the desire to start their own businesses, but also haven't the patience for the corporate 9-5 world. Radiohead's experiment falls neatly into this category and I hope they will succeed in garnering interest and purchases because of it. The only problem I foresee in this model is the difficulty of making it a model and not an exception; many small artists (folk singers and so forth) do use this word-of-mouth form of advertising to sell tickets and self-produced albums, but in more mainstream music culture this hasn't taken off as the dynamics are directed towards mass appreciation not niche markets. I guess we'll just have to watch and see what happens.

1 comment:

Painted Rock Pictures said...

That's a pretty interesting concept, I'll have to find out more about what they're doing. You should show that to Nick, Radio Head is one of his favorite bands.