Less Well Known Musicians Embracing 'Pay What You Want'
from the small-musicians,-big-musicians-alike dept
It still amuses me how often when we talk about specific music business models, defenders of the old system rush in to explain why any particular example is an exception. For years, we showed examples of less well known musicians embracing these kinds of new business models, critics would complain that they might work for unknown musicians who have “nothing to lose” and need attention more than anything else, but it would never ever work for a big star who has too much to lose. Then, of course, we talked about big time musicians like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails embracing these kinds of models, and the critics said “well, sure, it works for them with their well recognized name, but it would never work for unknown artists.” Hell, someone said that just yesterday in response to a post here, leading another commenter to jokingly (I hope) coin the phrase “Masnick’s Law”, which is loosely defined as
“in any conversation about musicians doing something different to achieve fame and/or fortune someone will inevitably attempt to make the argument that ‘it only worked for them because they are big/small and it will never work for someone who is the opposite,’ no matter how much evidence to the contrary might be readily available.”
I might expand on that definition a bit to have it go beyond just big/small. People will keep looking for excuses why each example is an exception, (big/small just being an easy such reason) to the point that they’ll eventually miss the fact that all of those exceptions are the rule.
Anyway, based on all of this, it will be interesting to see how Girl Talk’s new album does. Girl Talk is a one man DJ once mentioned (positively) in Congress as an example of why traditional copyright laws might not make sense anymore. With the release of his latest album, he’s decided to use a Radiohead-style model, with a few improvements. That is, rather than just a pure “give it away and pray,” he’s giving people an additional reason to buy — though I think he could still put together a better model. His is set up so you can pay what you want (including nothing at all) and get 320 kbps MP3 files, but if you pay over $5, he offers FLAC files as well, and at $10 you’ll also get a copy of the physical CD when it comes out. If you pay $0, he does ask that you fill out a little survey explaining why. There still are some problems with this model (it’s still a little too much like a give it away and pray model), but overall, it’s quite similar to Radiohead’s experiment.
Now, of course, all the folks who insisted that Radiohead’s model would never work for a relatively obscure musician are supposed to now insist that this model won’t work at all for Girl Talk, right? But what happens if Girl Talk is actually happy with the results, whether in direct payment amounts or in the fact that it gets him more publicity? Will they finally admit that the model isn’t just an exception?