Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Radiodread time again

It’s the day when the record industry get their revenge on Radiohead. Sinead has already posted about this, based on a report in today’s Guardian, and there’s also a piece in The Times too. Before we take a bite of …

Wed, Nov 7, 2007, 14:57

   

It’s the day when the record industry get their revenge on Radiohead.

inrainbows.jpg

Sinead has already posted about this, based on a report in today’s Guardian, and there’s also a piece in The Times too.

Before we take a bite of this, some caveats. In fact, more caveats than even those which apply when considering last night’s 8-0 drubbing at Anfield.

No-one but Radiohead and their peeps can actually say how much cash they made or lost on the “In Rainbows” experiment. The surveys, the ComScore one which produced today’s stories and Record of the Day’s well reported What Price Did You Choose? one, are selective and only form part of the overall picture. They may be right but the real facts and figures are with the band and Courtyard Management and they ain’t sharing.

Anyway, the gist of the pieces is that two thirds of those who downloaded the album didn’t pay a penny for it. OK, they paid the 45p “credit card administration fee” (anyone from Visa want to confirm if this is excessive?), but their generosity didn’t go any further. The rest paid an average of £2.90 with the Yanks a bit more generous (you can attribute that to the tipping culture, I suppose).

Now, the spin is that this means that even fans of a band like Radiohead will not pay for music. They want it for free. The record labels are right after all.

Leaving aside the random thought that ComScore may have some record label clients, this take is to ignore the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is fascinating.

With hindsight, we should view this, purely and simply, as a marketing excercise. It was about establishing Radiohead as a cool, cutting-edge and innovative act. It was about priming the market-place for the CD release. It was about taking euro, pounds and dollars from the fan-base for those box-sets (interesting that no-one is willing to punt on the numbers here). It could even be viewed as experiment, by way of Freakonomics, in economics and morals.

When you apply a rough cost-benefit analysis to the “In Rainbows” download campaign, you’ll see what I mean

Cost of manufacturing CDs, warehousing and distribution? Nil

Cost of serving radio and press with advance CDs? Nil

Cost of PR and promotional activies to plug album? Nil. One press release did the trick

While there were costs involved in encoding and digital distribition, these costs would be nothing compared to savings made above. I’m sure the charge for the box-set more or less offset the costs involved in producing that artefact.

Add in the income which the band will earn from their deal with XL for the physical CD release, receipts from next year’s tour (you can bet they won’t be putting out a tip jar for that one), merchandise sales (big mark-up on those Fair Trade organic cotton tees) and publishing income and you can see why the band and their reps could afford to write-off the money from the downloads. Yet again, so many commentators are getting the wrong end of the story.

Radiohead and “In Rainbows” – the marketing stunt of the year

By the way, the album sucks. But that doesn’t matter, does it?

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