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Radiohead: Re-inventing Music Sales

Posted: October 9th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A week or so ago, Radiohead announced they were selling their new album ‘in Rainbows‘ online. Doesn’t sound like anything new, until you hear that they are asking you, the customer, to say how much you want to pay for the download. Sound too good to be true? Well it was for the website, which crashed under the volume of Radiohead fans wanting to get their hands on the latest effort.

The other day I pre-ordered the album, and today (or soon I hope) my download link will turn up, although I’d imagine the site is spreading out these emails to prevent another overload. The in Rainbows website is intense to look at, and minimal in terms of information and fields. Normal trust indicators (Verisign, PayPal and the like) are visibly absent. Instead, you get to choose between a ‘meat space’ box set at a fixed price of £40, or the download at whatever price you choose. Yes, really. You can say you want it free, or pay them up to £99.99 (plus 45 pence processing charge with credit card). One wonders why the super-rich Radiohead fans can’t pay them more than £100, but there we go – they’ll just have to order multiple downloads for their friends and family or offer to pay Radiohead to play at their birthday party or some such thing.

This is an another genius move from one of the world’s outstanding bands. Radiohead album releases have always been widely anticipated, and even without this ‘gimmick’ it would have flown off the shelves. But is it a gimmick? Radiohead recently completed their contract with their record company and now can do whatever they like with their music. So instead of doing what most other artists do, and negotiate bigger payouts for themselves, they’ve innovated in a way that only Radiohead can, in a way that I’m sure everyone in the record industry is watching with half fascination, half impending doom for their livelihood.

What would be really fascinating is to know the stats on what people paid. Surely some people have paid nothing, but I’m sure many have paid a considered, reasonable amount. In reality at a minimum you have to pay the processing fee of 45p, so they will be getting your credit card details at the very least. Also when you pay they ask for a lot of personal information, including mobile/cell phone, so there is an inherent value in that as well – which makes me wonder what deal the processing company is on. But is the distribution of prices exponentially towards 0p, tailing off towards £100? Or is it normally distributed around some value that is akin to current CD prices – baring in mind that in the UK a CD normally retails at £12+ whereas in the US it’s $12+ (or £6 at current exchange rate)? This is all fascinating, and I suspect we’ll never find out. Radiohead are innovative but are they that innovative as to give away the album, and the store?

And no, I’m not telling you how much I chose to pay – other than it was between 1p and £99.99…



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