Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

October 03, 2007

Radiohead & the Set Your Own Price Debate

Radiohead is the latest high-profile band to not renew a major label contract and continue on as an indie. The band will release its 7th album, In Rainbows, on Oct. 10. The entire album is available as a digital download from for whatever price the purchaser wants to pay.
Here's a great observation from the TechDirt blog, which points out that there's more going on here than just free downloads.

Rather than just offering up the content, [Radiohead is] also trying to give people a reason to actually buy something else. In this case, it's a "discbox," which will include the new album on both CD and vinyl, as well as an additional CD of seven extra songs and photos, artwork and lyrics. The whole thing will be packaged in a nice container.

In other words, the band is following in the footsteps of folks like Trent Reznor, in realizing that the music is promotional for other stuff -- and you can still sell stuff if you make it worthwhile. In this case, Radiohead isn't really selling the "music." After all, you can get that for free. They're selling the full collection of stuff that comes with the music. Funny how it's the musicians, and not the record labels, who seem to realize that adding value and getting people to pay for it is a business model that beats suing fans.

Also worth reading is this other TechDirt post:

With Radiohead's new business model getting so much attention, we're hearing a bunch of folks start to claim that this kind of business model only works for big, established bands. Funny thing is, when we point to smaller artists doing similar things, people say that such a model may work for no-name artists, but couldn't possibly work for big pop stars, who would inevitably lose money.

The fact is that a business model that involves using the music as a promotional good can work for both small and large bands if you understand the economics of infinite goods and how to apply the appropriate business model based on the stage of the musician's career.

The simple fact is that these types of business models allow some less well known musicians to have a career in music in the first place -- whereas in the past they may have been forced out of music into another job. It's opened up plenty of new possibilities for ways to make a living by growing a fanbase and charging them for additional (scarce) products.

Thanks to indie musician Alun Parry, who was the first to make me aware of this Radiohead story. He's been using this "choose your own payment plan" method for some time now. He cleverly calls it Buskernomics.

Parry, a former Liverpool Echo Busker of the Year, says, "When I was a busker I made my music freely available and bought my first guitar with the proceeds. So why not do the same now. I let people decide how much they want to pay, whether that be free or whether that be lots more. It's up to them."


Did you enjoy this blog post? Subscribe now and get all of my newest ideas delivered by email or RSS feed. Learn how here.

What people are saying ...

"Your MySpace book is brilliant. Two of my artists worked all weekend updating their pages based on several tips and ideas you provided." -Leanne McNeil, PopArt Management

Promote Your Music on MySpace
Make the most of the world's biggest social networking web site with this great primer on MySpace Music Marketing. Available in paperback or ebook format. Get more details here.
Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.

Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email

Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 4:11 PM   5 comments


At Oct 3, 2007, 8:54:00 PM, Anonymous Ari said...

I think it's a brilliant move by a brilliant band. Totally in sync with the current trend. The world doesn't need physical delivery mechanism for music (at least in English-speaking developed countries) so we the content owner have to give reasons for people to buy physical goods and also reasons to listen to the whole album, not just one or two songs.

For my album, I really wanted to put together a lavish CD jacket with complete lyrics and images dedicated to each song -- but the cost of doing that turned out to be out of my reach. I've also been thinking about making my music available for donation-only... in the end, I've decided to try conventional methods first, but I'll keep that in the back of my mind as I evaluate my operation.

At Oct 4, 2007, 2:55:00 AM, Blogger 3D45 said...

in my country[Thailand] many teenager haven't the credit card this is a terrible. i mean the terrible is
HOW CAN WE BUY A NEW ALBUM OF RADIOHEAD. yes we can downloaded from bittorrent but someone like me needs to support the artist needs to read what they write in cover art album needs to show my friend what i have an awesome thing.

today is 4 OCT. the shop in thailand not talk about the new album of them this is a bad bad bad bad news. this is a problem of new business model in third world country.

At Oct 9, 2007, 8:29:00 PM, Blogger said...

I think what Radiohead is doing is great. I've actually co-founded a site that lets any musician sell their downloads and lets the fans pick the price they pay. It's called SongSlide - check it out!

At Oct 10, 2007, 1:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3d45 - Do you have prepaid credit cards in Thailand ? i.e. walk into a bank give them some cash and they give you a mastercard or visa debit card without credit. I'd be surpised if your large banks dont.

Banks are now offering these cards for this specific reason.

also how frequently do you rely on a record store to tell you what music is good or not. You can find out about good music either via independant radio, paper publications or the internet.

At Oct 11, 2007, 2:18:00 PM, Blogger steven edward streight said...

I applaud Radiohead.

But the package is skimpy for what? $80?

A vinyl version of the CD and an extra CD of only 7 songs? Not my idea of a special bonus package.

Better would be a full second and third CD, with remixes, alternative takes, live versions, new unrecorded tracks, etc.

As a musician, I know how easy it is to do alt takes and remixes.


Post a Comment

<< Home