Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Rainbows - What do you think?

This weekend, once it was clear the UT game was pretty much over by the third quarter, I wandered upstairs to my computer to download the only-on-line album from Radiohead, "In Rainbows".

I also downloaded some stuff from The Kleptones, that CB and David had recommended. Unlike the average college student or high school student, I firmly believe in continuing to pay for music despite the proliferation of locations where you can get pirated music. It boils down less to a healthy respect for the law and RIAA than a faint hope that musicians will actually get some cut from their label.

I am intrigued by Radiohead's label-less experiment. For those who don't know (Mom and Dad), they've released an online album which the user can decide how much they want to pay before they download, from $0.01 to whatever they like.

A few years ago Doug (Jamie's brother) and I were driving back from Minnesota and debated this very model. Will it work for Radiohead? Absolutely. They're one of the biggest bands in the world right now, especially for one that gets a fraction of the radio play of someone like Beyonce. These guys have been on the charts since 1993 in the US, and have been building a rabidly loyal following for a decade and a half. Whether the album is a bust and nobody wants to pay, Radiohead has stadium tours they could sell out for a decade without worrying about putting out new music or selling a single records, and they'd all make enough money to become space tourists.

In this model, sure it works. For the start-up musician... let's call our hypothetical band The Surrender Monkeystm, who is a local act and trying to get attention, having music available for free and trying to take donations is a great idea. To a point. I mean, they're struggling musicians, and its difficult to see the kids willing to actually pay for music they don't know, let alone music they do. So, I guess that means you post your stuff for free. Which makes it kinds of hard to afford server space, etc... unless you have significant income coming in from outside.

I guess then there's the rest of the bands slugging it out in the Billboard Chart who don't have a huge following and would be helped by the sale of albums and may or may not be able to sell to venues big enough, and at ticket prices high enough to make a go of it. Is NOT selling albums really going to help them?

Despite the fact that Camelot Records paid for part of my rent and put food in my mouth for over a year, I sort of think brick and mortar music stores will become specialty boutiques, like comic shops, or else will only sell music that appeals to a luddite audience. Make something elitist if that if you will, but... I mean, c'mon.

I am sad to say that my 1996 prediction that we would drop CD's from thumb-drive like chips for albums never really became a reality. McDonalds briefly had N'Sync singles on little USB drives for a while as part of a Happy Meal promotion, but eventually, nobody wanted the extra plastic, I think.

What I do think is that radio and internet broadcast now have a great opportunity... nay... RESPONSIBILITY to disseminate new talent. How this will eventually work is anyone's guess... So why not yours?

What I am curious to hear are not so much Leaguer opinions of the new album (which I like, and so does Jason, I think). But the future of online dissemination of music.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Here's an article about the album you might find interesting

Free? Steal It Anyway

J.S. said...

I think that the online dissemination of music is inevitable, absent a massive effort by the recording industry to encrypt recordings in some way. The real money will be in touring and merchandising.

The League said...

Good article, Randy.

Steanso, I know absolutely nothing about the finances of bands, let alone what the cuts on merchandising, etc... look like to the mid-success bands.

Are the t-shirt sales enough?

Anonymous said...

Hey!! TA had heard all about Radiohead's unusual venture. I know I'm out of it ,but I heard it on NPR.

J.S. said...

I think that eventually albums will be mostly free across the board, and that albums will come to be seen as something that the music audience feels entitled to get for free. Distributing albums for free will just be seen as a way of driving the concert industry and the merchandising industry (tee shirts, bumper stickers, posters, and special collectible versions of the albums, probably on vinyl or in formats that come with cool artwork or something- one potential positive apsect could be that maybe the record companies will start to put more effort into the artwork and materials that they release with their albums, knowing that if people are going to buy the albums, they're going to be doing so in order to have a collector's item- not just to get the music)