Follow that band! The Radiohead model goes local

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 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, was released on 3 December 2007.

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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, 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.

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Hi, my name is Lester. I'm a music lover, an avid blogger and a bit of a geek. In addition to being a people person, I'm fascinated by the internet and over the last 4 years I've become very passionate about technology, especially email marketing, blogging, social media, and community management. Thanks for reading my blog ;)

5 thoughts on “Follow that band! The Radiohead model goes local”

  1. Hi Lester, great post by the way, very current, as to what’s happening in the music industry now..

    We (Buyx Online) built Overtone’s Music site, it’s closely based on our personal project, which is all about Psytrance.

    What we attempted to do was make the music available for free, but also sell the media, in MP3, WAV and CD. Because we have to work with piracy (Which is free to the end-user) you have to give them what they want, let them listen to the Full tracks for free online, but also give them the option of buying the music, if they wanted too.

    It works great in my opinion, and gives the power back to the artist, instead of the Fat Cat Record Labels ..

    Here’s to the success story of the Music Industry


  2. Hi Lester,

    Funny enough, I have stumbled across your article and here I am giving you an update on what has happened to our free release.

    As far as I know we’re still the top download on Overtone Music, but unfortunately due to differences, Jet Black & The Multicolors disbanded around July 2008.

    I tried regrouping the band with new musicians but without steady paying gigs, few musicians in Cape Town will invest the kind of time that a band needs to go anywhere… coupled with the politics of promoters booking only their friends and local bands undercutting each other for a paid gig… The industry here is a total mess.

    A month after Jet Black & The Multicolors split I started a new band, The Hush.

    We never had a chance of giving our stuff away for free because we got picked up by Soul Candi Records straight away. And having released our material through a licensing deal we are no longer able to give it away for free.

    Within 5 months we were playlisted on Goodhope Fm and were invited for a 2 hour interview where we were able to plug the band and all our upcoming gigs for the month of March… but nothing.

    The live music scene in South Africa is as reliable as a hobby, and those who take themselves seriously are forced to go and try their luck abroad.

    Our publisher also advised us to go to Europe or the US, because they think we’ll have a good chance of getting something off the ground, but South Africa is a total waste of time. Pretty to look at, but not good enough to take home to meet your parents.

    Peace & Love

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