Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 09, 2021

Radiohead managed to make a lot of noise with the pay-what-you-want Web release of its “In Rainbows” album.

So now, two months later, what’s been the tip-jar tally from asking for money for an otherwise free mp3? The best estimate says it was pretty good, even with all the free(down)loaders:

A statement from the band rejected estimates by the online survey company ComScore that during October about three-fifths of worldwide downloaders took the album free, while the rest paid an average of $6.

Factoring in free downloads, ComScore said the average price per download was $2.26. But it did not specify a total number of downloads, saying only that a “significant percentage” of the 1.2 million people who visited the Radiohead Web site, inrainbows.com, in October downloaded the album. Under a typical recording contract, a band receives royalties of about 15 percent of an album’s wholesale price after expenses are recovered. Without middlemen, and with zero material costs for a download, $2.26 per album would work out to Radiohead’s advantage — not to mention the worldwide publicity.

A half-full/half-empty scenario. On the one hand, the band could have made a lot more money had they been able to extract payment from every single download. On the other hand, that’s unrealistic in the Internet Age; consider that had the album been locked up behind a payment-only barrier, there wouldn’t have been nearly as many downloads — instead, an even smaller percentage would have plunked down money, while everyone else would have just waited for the tracks to show up on P2P networks.

And as it is, Radiohead came out ahead, financially and exposure-wise. Essentially, the money they “lost” to free downloads would have been eaten by the recording-label middlemen had they released a conventional album. It was at worst a wash for the band, and actually probably a marginally better haul, as illustrated above.

Whether or not this gameplan is applicable to other artists, particularly those starting out, is questionable. Radiohead was able to leverage their established stature to make a lot of noise over this stunt. Even they admit that it’s probably not a sustainable way to sell their music. And I think that, if there were a reliable way to sell an album at a set price, without having to worry about the tracks leaking out in free-downloadable form almost immediately afterward (or even beforehand), none of this maneuvering would happen, even when the bands are in charge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 04:35:49 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Pop Culture
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3 Feedbacks »
  1. […] Anyone out there in 8trkLand pull down “In Rainbows”, and if so, did you pay anything for it?

    (Cross-posted/adapted from Population Statistic) […]

    Pingback by Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” Rundown at 8trk — 12/09/2021 @ 05:29:00 PM

  2. For the record, as it were, I paid a smidgen over $10 for In Rainbows.

    Comment by CGHill — 12/11/2021 @ 07:30:58 PM

  3. You are, as often when it comes to musical matters, above-average.

    Comment by CT — 12/11/2021 @ 09:46:09 PM

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