Don't Leave Me Dry
Radiohead, who is currently label-less, has just announced that they've finished their album, titled In Rainbows, and it's going up for sale on their website only on October 10th. The best part? The album will be offered in a pay-what-you-can manner, meaning an honor/donation system. This is huge. Now, it has been done before, some artists have been doing it for years, but the difference is that Radiohead is one of the biggest bands in the world. Aside from a collector's edition, there will no be a physical CD at this point. Nothing in the stores, nothing on iTunes. If it works, this will mean a major shift for the entire music industry.
Does this pay-what-you-can system work? If you look at the pricing statistics for Jane Siberry's honor system-based music store, you will see that the average price paid per song is $1.18, which is $.19 higher than the typical iTunes price. Even though the music can be downloaded completely free, 80% have paid at the $.99 suggested price, with 14% paying ABOVE the suggested price. That is impressive. What it means is that fans are taking a look at her work and paying what they feel is appropriate, which translates to often more than the retail price. If only all fans had such respect for their favorite musicians. If only all fans had access to such a flexible pricing structure.
Now, it is easy for a band like Radiohead, at this point in their career, to go without a label. Everyone knows who they are. They don't need publicity or distribution, because they've already made themselves household names. What I'm not completely sure of is if this meme can work for the smaller independent musician who is still trying to make their name known. I'm hoping that it can work, that someone will take a few songs for free and see if they want more. That concept seems to be working for us on a much smaller scale for us now, and for our next album we hope to employ a similar system to Siberry's. It's up to the entire culture, however, to breed that kind of responsible listenership.
What still blows my mind is that people expect to pay so little for music. The price of all other kinds of art rises with the times, but music has decreased significantly in the last 20 years. True, production costs have gone down, but that doesn't mean that the value of what an artist has done has decreased. One night of low budget theatre with minimal sets and costumes in this town costs about $20, but people still complain if they have to pay $9.99 for an entire album of music that took months if not years of blood, sweat, and tears to create, an album that you will get to own and re-use for a lifetime.
After some discussion at lunch today, David and I decided that we will pay about $20 for In Rainbows because that's what we feel they're worth to us. We know we will listen quite a bit, and we have an idea of the kind of work involved in creating it. Some will pay less, some more, some nothing at all. What is strange is they haven't announced in what way the music will be encoded, but I'd be really surprised if it had any DRM on it, as they are staunchly against such tactics. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out. I know we'll be keeping a close eye on it.
This is a test. I am moving away from haloscan to Blogger comments. It will take a while to do away with the haloscan link because I have to go back through the entire blog and archive everything into Blogger.
Please post all comments into Blogger hencefore. Thanks!