LONDON (Hypebot) – Asking fans to pay anything from 1 pence (plus a 45 pence service fee) to whatever they think is fair for a download, Radiohead is offering their latest release "In Rainbows" for pre-order. "So far" the download or a 2 vinyl disc + CD + download package for 40 Pounds Sterling is available only via a special band website.
ANALYSIS: By avoiding all label machinery and going direct to fans with this unique pricing model, Radiohead is maintianing renegade credibility while still monetizing their relationship with an increasingly savvy and fickle indie fanbase that has come to expect music for free. They've also turned their fans and the entire blogasphere into their free promotion machine.
Critics will point out that the band is able to make this leap only because of years of expensive promotion from EMI. But the groups still deserves points for the bold move and with luck someday they will share the average price fans saw fit to pay so that this experiment can serve to guide and enbolden others.
As you have rightly pointed out, this is not an option for every band, but mainly for the A-list bands that actually benefited from the old system to get to where they are. But if they now subsequently decide to go totally "indie", where are the major labels going to find the mega-revenues that used to subsidize the rest of the money-losing acts in their stable?
As Thom Yorke himself wryly observed in an interview with New York Times in July last year.
“I’m not really into the idea of picking an enormous fight now because I think the structure of the music business is in a state of collapse anyway. You might as well just let it get on with it. There’s no point in us trying to help. And it makes you sound really arrogant, like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to mess up the system.’ The system’s built us, so that would be a bit silly, wouldn’t it?”
More details here: http://www.music2dot0.com/archives/47