During lectures at Nomadic Marketing last week at the UCT Graduate School of Business, one band that almost all the lecturers referred to was Radiohead. This isn’t because they specifically liked the band (although Colin Daniels did confess to being a fan) but more specifically because of the way that the band released their latest album online.
Here’s the short version of what the band did
On 1 October 2007, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood announced in a brief post on Dead Air Space (the band’s blog) “Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days . . . We’ve called it In Rainbows”. Bypassing a traditional physical release in stores, Radiohead released the album as a download available for order from inrainbows.com on 10 October 2007. In a Wired interview, Yorke explained that “every record for the last four—including my solo record—has been leaked. So the idea was like, we’ll leak it, then. Radiohead’
The download, packaged as a ZIP file, included the ten album tracks encoded in 160 kbps DRM-free MP3 format. Upon purchase, the buyer was prompted to type in their desired price. The staggered online release of the album began at about 5:30 GMT on 10 October, but on 10 December 2007, the official digital download was no longer made available. A special made-to-order “discbox”, available for pre-order through inrainbows.com, was released on 3 December 2007.
(source – www.wikipedia.com)
One of the questions that was raised in the lecture was whether this business model was a viable one for bands, or whether it only worked for Radiohead because they were Radiohead. On the other hand, to quote Colin – “if the album was crap, this wouldn’t have worked.” Madonna soon followed suit by making digital downloads of her album available on line to similar success, and in his lecture on New Media Law Paul Jacobson also pointed me to the Nine Inch Nails free download case study which was also a success for the band.
Now it seems that we have the first South African take on this give-your-work-away-for-free model. Jet Black and the Multi Colours have decided to distribute their new seemingly untitles EP for free on the net with their overtone record label. When I first saw the post up on www.muti.co.za, I dismissed it without realising what it actually was – a record label collaborating with a local band to make their music freely available online. This goes some way to validate something that Rafiq Philips mentioned on the WebAddiCT blog a while back: “We’re seeing the shift from the commoditisation of music to the commoditisation of attention in the music industry (…)”
I for one think that he’s right and will be keeping my eyes on JetBlack to see a) whether their attempt at the new community focussed business model yields positive results and b)whether they will follow Radiohead’s lead a step further and make the album available for purchase as a CD if the download campaign is a success. If this model does yield positive results, I think that we’ll see many more local bands and artists following suit, especially in Cape Town where there’s a wealth of musical talent with no real form of monetizing their gift (anti Joburg flame suit on,lol)
If anyone from the band or from overtone is reading this, drop me a comment and let me know how things are going.
P.S. – I’m downloading the EP now and will post a review up here in the next day or two.