Radiohead Releases Results of “In Rainbows” Experiment

In Rainbows

In Rainbows

Whether with their music, the way in which they tour, and recently in how they release their albums, Radiohead are always seeming to push away the existing conventions in music and then creating them anew.

This article from Pop Matters discusses the sales figures for “In Rainbows” — an album that was released as a “pay what you like” download before its physical release as a CD. The music industry is frightened of more artists doing things like this (or like Trent Reznor’s approach), and people within the business try to point out that most bands aren’t a Radiohead — groups with a motivated fan base who are attuned to their every move.

Fair enough, but what I think the industry (and even music journalists) often miss in the discussion is that this evolving new model for the music business is more than just a new intersection between Art and Commerce —it completely changes the metrics of what it takes for an artist to also be a financial success. With lower physical costs for distribution and by keeping more (if not all) of the revenue, a band can “break even” after selling only a fraction of the albums that it used to take to recoup the tremendous cost of a major-label release… and with substantially less risk — at least in terms of dollars-and-cents.

And for an existing band like Radiohead, there is an added benefit: In this day and age when a musician’s album is posted to the internet and available for free before it’s even available for sale, releasing it yourself digitally for a consumer-determined price essentially allows you to monetize the leaks.  Essentially, what was once a disaster for a band becomes another revenue stream.

For people trying to make a living off of their art, It’s an exciting time to be alive — isn’t it?