For the past few months, people have been talking about the give-it-away-and-they-will-buy-it model for content distribution. Now, NiN’s Trent Reznor has released his new Ghosts I-IV albums at a variety of price points, from the first album free to $300 for the super-duper deluxe version – and he sold all 2,500 of the latter.
While it’s not exactly the same as Radiohead’s deal – there were price points of $0, $5, $10, $75, and $300, each of which got you different things – it demonstrates innovative thinking on how to get music out there and be noticed, yet still make money. The notable thing about NiN and Radiohead are both famous groups already. It’s hard to know if this sort of model would work for unknown bands.
Incidentally, for another album-funding method, check out Scottish band Amplifico, who got the funding for their first studio-produced album by asking fans for donations. As an apology for releasing the album late, they made a 3-track album available for free download from their website.
(image from NiN website)
Yesterday was quite a big day for virtual goods. In addition to Valve releasing the Half Life 2 Orange Box online (which Jeremy blogged about earlier), Radiohead released their new album ‘In Rainbows’ via their website. Both mark a considerable move away from the traditional business model in video games and music, offering their content directly to the user at a lower price than would be available in brick and mortar stores.
Happily as well as being delivered in new formats, both products are very very good. Radiohead’s album sparkles and is more accessible than anything I’ve heard since ‘Kid A’. It feels less jagged than previous work and easier without losing that challenging nature that requires 40 listens before you get it. I still feel like I need to listen more but the alienation I felt listening to some of ‘Hail To The Thief’ is not there – I can enjoy listening to ‘In Rainbows’ even when not concentrating on it. I decided to pay £6 for the album, which charges a 47p transaction fee but otherwise lets you pay whatever you want. When it’s as good as this I can imagine most people paying more than expected.
Valve’s Orange Box was also out yesterday on their ‘Steam’ delivery service. the pack contains Half Life 2 and it’s two additional chapters, Episode 1 and the new Episode 2, as well as multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 and the incredible Portal. The real trick of Valve’s single player work is how it tells a story without cutscenes by creating events that make the gamer want to look in that direction – a very real rendition of ‘Show Don’t Tell’, as many writers are instructed early in their careers. The sheer joy of messing around with momentum using the portal gun in Portal is worth the entry price by itself.
[photo from Valve’s website]
I’ve been saying for a few years now that as soon as a major band started selling their own records on their own website, the music companies were doomed. Today it looks like the revolution has started. Radiohead, the superstar band that finished their contract with EMI following their last album ‘Hail To The Thief’ have announced that their new album ‘In Rainbows’ will be released on October 10th, purely through their website. In a move that’s going to send ripples through the music industry, the album download has no set price. The website literally says ‘Pay what you want’. With Nine Inch Nails pledging to sell all their records direct to fans after their contract ends, it’s looking like the future of music is going to be very different.
Radiohead’s move is a very smart one – bands make the majority of their money by touring under the current economic model. Even if large numbers of people download the album for free, aside from the small cost of recording and the bandwidth for their website, the album has virtually no overheads as a digital download. That means that any money donated by downloaders goes straight into the band’s pockets without going through ten different middle-managers first, exactly as I said in my post about amazon’s DRM free model last week. Even if the average payment for a download is £3, Radiohead will perversely still get a fair bit more money than the 5% -odd royalty cut of a £10 CD sold in HMV or Virgin. It’s reassuring that the move has been made by a band that in my opinion is one of the best in the world.
[via boing boing and music 2.0, picture from Radiohead’s new album site]