So Radiohead threw down big. Without a label, they've gone direct to consumer (DTC), selling their new album 'In Rainbows' via their website using W.A.S.T.E. Industries (makers of Radiohead's SICK t-shirts and merch) as the transaction engine. The NYT popped this last week. Beyond going DTC, they've introduced a unique pricing model for the album. Buy the digital download of the album for WHATEVER YOU THINK IT'S WORTH. Buy the collector's edition box set for ~ 40 pounds.
Q. Will people pay a fair price for music they love, if given the chance?
A. Radiohead will find out first.
Are other band considering the same move? Yep - Jamiroquai, Oasis and of course, NIN. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nail’s wrote the post below on the NIN site. Look for his follow up to 'Year Zero' to go DTC as well.
If two of the biggest acts in the industry can see the digital writing on the wall and totally embrace it—that the old way of doing business is broken—why can’t the labels? What Radiohead and NIN are showing is that the business model “of the future” feared by entrenched interests isn’t arriving some time in the horizon. It’s touching down now.
The model is changing. 1 in 20 songs downloaded from the web is done so legally. Colbie Caillat emerges from As a publisher/distributor of music through W+K Tokyolab, this is particularly interesting.
But before we put a bullet through the labels, consider this:
Didn't Radiohead and NIN get big enough to go DTC based on the success of their prior record label 's distribution/promotion efforts? There is a short list of established bands with global recognition that could generate the PR to get traffic to their download sites. Even so, many up and comers are distributing music free, as promotional media. And MySpace was originally a music promotion/sharing site turned social network.
So what role labels can labels expect to play going forward?
- lawyers on top of libraries?
- music VC’s, investing heavily in unknown acts for a percentage of future take?
- ‘momentum consultants’ who generate initial buzz for acts for fee or commission (assuming they can learn the medium fast enough to do it better than the bands and their fans)?
- distribution platforms? Colbie Caillat and Marie Digby both "hit it big" when they signed with labels, even after their success online generated hundreds of thousands of plays. CoCo's album has sold 300K+ copies since going on sale in June. Marie hasn't yet released an album with Hollywood (expected in 2008), but her videos have been seen 2.3MM times to date.