Details Released On The Radiohead Experiment Results: A Tremendous Success

from the good-for-them dept

While Trent Reznor has been very open in discussing the results of his various business model experiments, Radiohead has been notoriously quiet about it — leading some to falsely assume that the experiment was a failure. CNN even called it one of the dumbest moments in business last year. That seemed ridiculous on its face, as it was quite clear that the experiment was a huge success for Radiohead, even if the band was quiet about the numbers. However, Radiohead’s publisher has now come out and revealed some of the numbers and debunked the myth that the experiment was a failure (thanks to SteveD for sending this over). Instead, it turns out that Radiohead made much more money from this experiment than from their previous album. The band’s music was spread much more widely than previous albums, with over 1.75 million physical albums sold (and that’s not counting all of the paid downloads) — as compared to its previous albums, which all sold in the hundreds of thousands. About the only downside to the experiment was that the band found itself talking about the experiment more than the music.

Now, of course, some will point out that this experiment isn’t very representative, because Radiohead got a huge boost by being the first high profile band to do this. And that’s absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean the business model doesn’t work at a more reasonable level. Obviously, Radiohead got a big boost from doing something unique and different, but that just gives other bands reasons to look at not just copying Radiohead, but adding more unique offerings themselves. That’s how business models innovate, by trying out new stuff and trying to attract attention. Unfortunately, though, we still have big record labels who think business model innovation is having Congress protect your old business model.

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Comments on “Details Released On The Radiohead Experiment Results: A Tremendous Success”

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17 Comments
Overcast says:

“CNN even called it one of the dumbest moments in business last year. That seemed ridiculous on its face, as it was quite clear that the experiment was a huge success for Radiohead, even if the band was quiet about the numbers. However, Radiohead’s publisher has now come out and revealed some of the numbers and debunked the myth that the experiment was a failure”

So does this mean CNN and Fortune magazine are the dumbest Media outlets in the Business? Seems they were wrong indeed.

I couldn’t help but to Digg the old article and send CNN some feedback, lol

Douglas Gresham (profile) says:

And of course this isn't counting . . .

. . . the other benefits like gaining new fans who wouldn’t have bought their album and who might now spend money on scarcities like gigs.

It’s slightly disappointing that some are hanging on to the average price paid as if it’s a meaningful number (I’ll take making a dollar a time on a hundred sales over making 10 dollars on one, thank you) , but overall it’s great to have these numbers out there.

Glenn (user link) says:

sales numbers

The key numbers are: In Rainbows has sold three million units total, 1.75 million physical units, 100k box sets. That means the CD outsold downloads, and the album was purchased from the band’s website fewer than 1 million times.

Like you said, this test isn’t representative of what other bands would experience (Harvey Danger gave away an album years ago, but the event was not nearly as celebrated). But it was definitely a success. For some, success is measured by the number of copies that were not paid for. While I think piracy is cause for concern and needs to be addressed, revenue collected is always the best measure of success.

Also, there’s no way previous albums sold only hundreds of thousands of units. Not worldwide, and not in the U.S. OK Computer, for one, is multi-platinum in the U.S.

greg says:

Re: Re: sales numbers

however, i somehow doubt that their previous album hasn’t sold more than a million copies since it was made available, approx 4 years ago.

also, way to go allowing blank comments to be posted… you guys should throw an error, or at least ask for confirmation, when attempting to post a comment with no body (i accidentally pressed ‘enter’ at the wrong time)

Alex Osterwalder (user link) says:

ppt slidedeck on business model innovation in the music industry

The music industry is a great example of business model innovation, where corporate titans are trying to fight innovative start-ups with the wrong methods (lawyers)…

Have a look at this slidedeck:

Business Model Innovation MattersView SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: osterwalder alex)

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Actually, Radiohead’s deal was a success only when compared to an album that got little or no support from the record label and did nothing on radio.support. Hail to the Thief was not a commercial success at all, and spawned no real singles or support.

Conversely, In Rainbows was specifically commercial in nature and has spawed a few radio friendly songs, which goes a long way to making the album a success. The price isn’t important if the music isn’t very good, Hail to the Thief is a poor unit of measure to say if this was a success or not.

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