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Radiohead Says Name Your Own Price for New Album 498

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the funny-that-the-artists-are-pushing-for-lower-prices dept.
TechDirt is reporting that the band Radiohead has apparently chosen the path less traveled when it comes to the release of their new album. They are offering two very unique methods of purchase for their new music, the ability to name your own price for a digital download or the ability to purchase a special "discbox" which will contain the album on CD and vinyl in addition to a horde of goodies. Will be interesting to see how this new model works out for them and what it might do to more traditional methods.
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Radiohead Says Name Your Own Price for New Album

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  • by revlayle (964221) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:26PM (#20812593) Homepage
    and even after hosting/bandwidth fees and site maintenance, they are probably still making more $$ per sale than they would have with a traditional record deal
  • This is brilliant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TechForensics (944258) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:32PM (#20812693) Homepage Journal
    Radiohead wins, the fans win, the RIAA companies lose. Radiohead makes more for their music, fans pay less, and the greedy middlemen eventually begin considering honest jobs.

    Only immediate problem I see is that the record companies are going to be darned sure to sign new bands to perpetual contracts to prevent this kind of defection in the event of success. Maybe the new pathway will be for new bands to get exposure on iTunes or Amazon's new .mp3 download service. And just maybe, as the article suggests, big successful bands selling direct will feature or promote new, worthy acts.

    We can be glad the sun is setting on the **AAs.

  • Re:Does... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by markov_chain (202465) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:36PM (#20812771) Homepage
    They should still ask people for a CC and bill them 0.0. That way at least the billing hassle is equal between the zero/non-zero cost alternatives. This hassle is really why many people pirate MP3s, it's too damn hard to deal with DRM billing proprietariness etc etc.
  • Re:Does... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidShor (928926) * <supergeek717.gmail@com> on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:38PM (#20812803) Homepage
    This problem is isomorphic to the tragedy of the commons:

    You are faced with the choice of supporting the band, or not supporting the band. Many people need to support the band in order for it to stay afloat.

    If you support the band, you have no reason to believe anyone else will support the band, but you are unable to spend the money you spent supporting the band on other things. So the rational decision is to refuse to support the band, and hope that someone else does.

    This might work because people feel good about giving away money, but it wouldnt scale very well for the rest of the industry.

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:40PM (#20812835) Homepage Journal
    I like this idea, but I think it goes in a direction of a market that is already plummeting to zero code for recorded music (used primarily as a marketing resource to get fans to come to live shows or buy hard merchandise which isn't copied as easily or at a far greater cost).

    I love MeetUp.com because I think it is a great way to get to know others in your area who have similar tastes as you do. But MeetUp has a few shortcomings in terms of active financial participation of those who are part of the group, so I think it falls short of being a strong market incentive to use as a direction for bands, public speakers, and others to find markets of interest.

    There are websites where people can put up money to entice someone to visit their town, but I think they don't focus well on bands and speakers. Why don't we have more of a market support for live concerts, especially since they can be a "true market" resource for financing musicians and artist? Music has nearly infinite supply in MP3 format, with just the cost of bandwidth and hosting being the limiting factor for infinite supply (therefore zero or near zero market cost). Bands who produce great music at a low or no cost can produce a big profit if they entice people to go to their shows.

    Why isn't there, yet, a mechanism for bartering for live music, between fans and artists?

    Example:

    Radiohead says they'll go on tour in the United States. www.BookABand.com (made up site, might exist) lets all the fans put up their own money to "vote" for a venue for Radiohead to play at (or a city, instead of a specific venue). I may love Radiohead, so I'd say I'll pay $200 per ticket to see them play, preferably in a smaller venue. Note that my wife and I pay outrageous sums of money to see artists play at The Pearl at the Palms Casino in Vegas (small venue, tickets can be $250 per seat for standing room) because we like the closer quarters and the opportunity after the show to talk to the musicians. Not everyone wants to pay that money, but we love small venues, so it is worth it to us.

    Others can bid say $1, or $10 or $50 or whatever they feel is a cap. If Radiohead decides to pick that town, let's say Chicago, they can log in and say they'll play Chicago if they can raise $50,000 for the show. Venues can bid based on their capacity and what cut they want. We might have 10,000 Chicago Radiohead fans bidding between $1 and $500, 10 venues bidding between 1000 capacity and 10,000 capacity for a cut of say 10-30%, and Radiohead making the final decision. When they pick a venue, the rest is automatically calculated: fans pay what they think is a viable amount to pay, and the cut off occurs at the point that the band gets their $50,000+ total, with fans below the cut-off not attending. Anyone can raise or lower their bids up to approval by the band and the venue, and the band and venue can cancel their bid as well.

    Sort of a Dutch auction of sorts, but with market forces providing the final cost and service provided.

    Music sales may not be dead, but they're quickly heading in that direction. For every 1 album sold online, how many are pirated, given away, played on the radio or Pandora, or distributed at no cost or charge? 5? 10? 50? It would make sense for bands to try to make as much profit as possible -- based on their fans' financial desire -- and give more of their music away as a marketing cost.

    Some bands, say my brother's band Maps & Atlases [myspace.com], might be happy to play for only $2500 and set up 10 dates for their fans to bid on around the country. They might get 250 people willing to pay $10 each, or 500 people willing to pay between $5 and $20, with venues kicking in a negative cost (meaning they'd pay the band instead of taking a per-ticket percentage) to bid for a semi-popular band such as them.
  • Re:Does... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hatchet (528688) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:43PM (#20812913) Homepage
    Don't you think there's something wrong with the band or their music if no one else supports them? Or maybe, there's something wrong with your taste:>
  • Re:Does... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rolgar (556636) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:52PM (#20813081)
    The nice thing is you can pay nothing, download the music and see if you like it, if you're like me and don't know Radiohead from the Black Eyed Peas or Coldplay (I've heard of all of them, but never listened to any of their music). Then, if you like it, go back and buy it again with the price you consider fair, or go to a concert. Hopefully this works for them so other bands will give it a try.
  • Re:"Unique" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pokerdad (1124121) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:55PM (#20813135)

    Something is either unique or it isn't. There's no "Somewhat unique", or "very unique".

    My mother was an English teacher and she used to complain about people misusing the word unique in this way all the time. And while I certainly understand the point you and she are making, I have long wondered at what point does a commonly misused word simply become redefined?

    You can argue that "very unique" is non-sensical, but the truth is that everyone reading that phrase knows the intention of the author, and therefore information information is being conveyed.

  • Re:Does... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidShor (928926) * <supergeek717.gmail@com> on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:35PM (#20813851) Homepage
    Basic game theory shows that the amount that you were willing to pay is irrelevant to your decision to support or not.

    The only thing that it says about the band is that none of their fans have taken game theory.

  • You can do that... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Newer Guy (520108) on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:37PM (#20813893)
    Do it like this... Offer them zero dollars for the album. Download it. Listen to it. THEN "Buy" it again, this time paying them what you truly think its worth.
  • Re:Does... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snarlydwarf (532865) on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:44PM (#20813985) Homepage

    People are not going to pay if they don't have to. End of subject.

    Really?

    You do know that MagnaTune [magnatune.com] has requested donations for albums for years and done quite well for themselves and their artists? Admittedly they do ask for a minimum of $5 (most likely because for very small amounts it really isn't worth the trouble to process), but routinely get paid much more than that. Artists get a 50% cut of all sales (far better than any normal record company). But you can download 128k mp3's for free, and even use them in non-commercial podcasts.

    I've bought a couple albums from them in the past couple of years, and just now I see I need to go back and give them more money since I see some more stuff I want.

    The Residents [residents.com] have also had an online store for the past couple of years funded entirely by the honor system: if you need a track, download it and pay them: they only request that you pay more than $3 so that they don't get eaten by billing costs. And, of course, they have also had the "extra special cd" available for most of their works in the past few years (package with bonus CD, book, numbered edition, etc).

    They seem to be doing very well despite being the most obscure successful band.

    Sure, Radiohead may "lose" some sales... some people will download their music and not pay: most of these would be people who would have never listened to their music anyway. People who were willing to pay cash money for a CD will appreciate being able to pay less online (and not finance MegaMart Music Stores) and even appreciate the convenience of getting the music from their home. Completists will appreciate the bonus edition and will gladly buy it: possession is a major part of being a Completist.

    I see no reason why this won't work for known bands with dedicated fans. It would be harder for the little obscure bar band to survive like this, but, then, most of them aren't making much from CD sales either, so it isn't clear that they would actually lose money.

  • by flitty (981864) on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:46PM (#20814027)
    Things that I would like to know about this, that TFA doesn't address directly: 1) How much of my money goes to Radiohead? I'd rather send them $20 by mail and say "for the albums i've downloaded" than give 90% of the money to the MAFIAA. If they get most of the money from this, i'll totally support it. 2) Bitrate/format of downloads? I'm not going to pay a lot for a 128 mp3. 3) Any future plans to release the Vinyl on it's own, with a card in it that gives you access to the MP3 downloads. That would be sweet. I just don't want to pay $80 for 2 records.
  • Re:Magnatune (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Workaphobia (931620) on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:53PM (#20814111) Journal
    I think of them every time I hear one of these stories. Magnatune is one of the very few labels you can do business with and not feel like you have to take a shower afterwards. I discovered them while investigating online DRM-free labels with a conscience, after realizing that eMusic didn't have the (quite idealistic) philosophy I was looking for.
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Monday October 01, 2007 @03:00PM (#20814209) Journal
    There's some comments in this Time Magazine article [time.com]. Some choice ones...

    "This feels like yet another death knell," emailed an A&R executive at a major European label. "If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business."

    "That's the interesting part of all this," says a producer who works primarily with American rap artists. "Radiohead is the best band in the world; if you can pay whatever you want for music by the best band in the world, why would you pay $13 dollars or $.99 cents for music by somebody less talented? Once you open that door and start giving music away legally, I'm not sure there's any going back."
    Translation: "If this works, it's time to panic."

    -S

  • by jotok (728554) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:01PM (#20816041)
    The option is between lo-fi downloads on the cheap (depending on your definition of a fair price) and hi-fi recordings for $80. So, if you do not want the hi-fi recordings, you don't have to buy them. This is called "capitalism."

    If they are being cool and releasing un-DRM'd music at a fair price (by definition, fair, since you get to negotiate) then you really have no excuse for downloading it from somewhere else and throwing them a bone, unless you're just a dick.
  • Re:Zero paradox (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:11PM (#20816161) Homepage

    If it's worth nothing ($0.00) to you, don't download it, because it's worth nothing to you and therefore you have no need of it.

    I could buy the air I need to breath -- it's certainly worth enough to me, being necessary for life and all, and people do sell bottled air for underwater use and the like -- but since I'm not under water and here air is superabundant ("not scarce") I don't have to pay anything for it, and quite logically choose not to. I'm sure the air-bottlers would love to eliminate their free competition, but unlike the music publishers they haven't managed to buy themselves a legislative distribution monopoly.

    Translation: when a good is available for free from one source it's hardly surprising that people won't pay more for the same thing elsewhere. It has nothing to do with the good's "worth" and everything to do with the available alternatives -- which in this case are nearly identical in quality and as close to "free" as one is likely to find.

  • by /dev/trash (182850) on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:05PM (#20817311) Homepage Journal
    You'll notice that he's NOT finished that story since people were not paying.

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