Oct 22, 2007

Radiohead, freedom, artistry

Over at Alley Insider, Peter Kafka waxes poetic about the Radiohead's "In Rainbows" experiment, correctly recognizing that the import of this event is not how much money Radiohead made from releasing their album with a pay-what-you-want model, but instead:

"Radiohead is likely to make a nice sum from "In Rainbows," but the real advantage that its giveaway stunt has conferred is freedom: Radiohead, not a music label, will own the songs it recorded (EMI owns all of Radiohead's earlier work, for instance). Radiohead, not a music label, can decide how to market, promote and distribute the songs -- if it wants to do any of the above. And Radiohead, not a music label, can decide when, where and how it wants to release its next album. Etc."
I think Peter is partially right, clearly this freedom is a big part of what happened. But I think something more significant is going on, related to pricing mechanisms. Radiohead shifted the decision of what to pay to its audience. Allowing, in essence, its listeners to have more control in determining what the content is worth. Recognizing that each consumer has a different value they put on the content (and maybe that value changes over time too).

Radiohead clearly is in a unique situation and has much more flexibility than, say, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, or a million other bands. But methinks this is the more important trend to watch . . . .

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I ask myself: who would *I* rather have a relationship with -- a nameless faceless corporate bureaucracy (EMI plc) or a bunch of guys who make music that I'm passionate about (Radiohead itself)? That means I'm likely to to share much more about myself with Radiohead directly than I ever would (or was ever asked to, for that matter) with EMI.

When you take away the distribution problem, media reduces to a information relationship problem. And in a relationship what matters is the level of commitment of each party. And the level of commitment is much higher for the fan-band than for the fan-recordco-band. So the overall value of the relationship will go UP.

Oh, and just you wait 'til they drop the you're-invited-to-buy-tickets-to-the-shows-on-our-upcoming-tour-but-only-if-you-bought-the-album-before-this-announcement TWENTY MEGATON BOMB on us all next year. You know they could sell out MSG and similar venues around the world. And all the folks in the room will look around at each other and think what a wonderful thing they all accomplished together. That is a kind of power even EMI could never harness for the band.

-Ben

Thaddeus said...

I have yet to give this any direct thought:

"But I think something more significant is going on, related to pricing mechanisms. Radiohead shifted the decision of what to pay to its audience. Allowing, in essence, its listeners to have more control in determining what the content is worth. Recognizing that each consumer has a different value they put on the content (and maybe that value changes over time too). "

But you're absolutely right.

While I was concentrating on the idea of music being worth something:

http://www.melatonemusic.com/blog/2007/10/19/charge-it-to-the-game-but-keep-your-receipt.html

I never actually took the idea far enough to think about it in your terms...

Very helpful. Thanks.