by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 18th 2007 5:21am
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 11th 2007 2:54pm
from the some-good,-some-bad dept
That, however, is the wrong way to look at things. It's the "old business model" way of looking at things, where the key point is how many CDs were sold. That's doesn't much matter any more. The band has supposedly made quite a lot of money from selling the MP3s directly, and the attention garnered by the marketing stunt will likely allow them to sell more concert tickets at higher prices (and, yes, the band is about to start touring). Plenty of people who knew little about the band now know a lot more and are talking about and listening to the new album. At this point, no matter what happens with the CD, you'd have to say that the experiment has been quite a success.
That said, it doesn't appear as though the band fully embraces the economics impacting the music industry these days. That's because the band has decided to stop offering the downloads off its site as it gears up to try to sell the CDs. That seems like a rather pointless and shortsighted move. The music is already out there and being listened to widely. If you look on sites like Last.fm and Hype Machine, Radiohead clearly dominates. Continuing to offer fans an option in terms of how they want to consume and purchase the music only makes sense. It's not as if the music is suddenly not going to be available on various file sharing sites. So, really, all this move does is limit the ways fans can give the band money -- and that doesn't make much sense.
by Timothy Lee
Tue, Nov 13th 2007 1:12pm
from the it's-called-competition dept
But the strangest thing about Rosenblatt's article is the pejorative use of the term "race to the bottom" to describe competition in the music industry. When Apple cuts the price on the iPod, we would be really surprised to see a columnist complaining about how Apple had started a "race to the bottom" that will undermine profits among consumer electronics companies. We understand that, as painful as competition can be for producers, consumers and the economy as a whole benefit from such aggressive price-cutting. Talking about a "race to the bottom" is the language of cartels, which try to hold prices above the competitive level. Music is like any other product As the marginal costs of production and distribution fall, it's natural that the price of music will fall as well. Smart musicians and companies will find ways to adapt and prosper in the new, more competitive marketplace. As we've said before, saying you can't compete with free is saying you can't compete at all. The sooner musicians and record labels realize that, the more prepared they'll be when the price of music drops out from under them.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 31st 2007 9:38am
from the filling-a-void dept
However, what's much more interesting is that in a NY Mag interview with Reznor and Williams, Reznor admits that he was an active member of OiNK, the file sharing site that was recently shut down, and then gives an eloquent explanation for why OiNK exists and why iTunes sucks. It's not about "stealing," even though Reznor does refer to it as stealing. It's about people who love music:
"I'll admit I had an account there and frequented it quite often. At the end of the day, what made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store. Pretty much anything you could ever imagine, it was there, and it was there in the format you wanted. If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn't the equivalent of that in the retail space right now. iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc. Amazon has potential, but none of them get around the issue of pre-release leaks. And that's what's such a difficult puzzle at the moment. If your favorite band in the world has a leaked record out, do you listen to it or do you not listen to it? People on those boards, they're grateful for the person that uploaded it -- they're the hero. They're not stealing it because they're going to make money off of it; they're stealing it because they love the band. I'm not saying that I think OiNK is morally correct, but I do know that it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 23rd 2007 7:04am
from the confused-people dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 18th 2007 12:22pm
from the it-ain't-all-about-the-price dept
The Forbes article on this (linked above) has some really odd quotes from Intellectual Property law professor Doug Lichtman, who seems to think that people downloading the album from unauthorized sites is somehow a bad thing that has hurt Radiohead's experiment. It appears that he, like so many others, seems to have ignored the full explanation of Radiohead's business model here. What they make from the digital copies is rather meaningless. They're trying to get the music spread as far and wide as possible, and then are trying to give fans a real reason to still buy the CD by providing many valuable extras. Lichtman claims that this shows it's hard to compete with free -- but I'd actually take the exact opposite lesson. It's easy to compete with free. If you provide convenience, flexibility and focus on selling services or tangible goods that are made more valuable by the free distribution of content, competing with free isn't that hard at all. Radiohead seems to be proving that quite well.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 9th 2007 10:59am
from the tipping-point dept
There are two key things to note in all of this. First, all these bands feel the need to ditch big record labels to do this (and, no, that doesn't mean that small bands without recording contracts can't succeed this way too). This is a sad state of affairs for the record labels -- because there still should be a place for them in helping to promote and market a band, even if they're giving away the music for free. It's just that they're not venture capitalists any more and bands don't need help in distributing content -- two businesses the record labels insist they're in. What's really sad here is how clueless the record labels remain to this reality. In a Reuters article about the Radiohead move, a record industry insider mistakenly claims that this trend is going to hurt the music business because bands will rush out singles instead of albums. Apparently that insider only read the first half of the details of what Radiohead is doing (as well as what others are doing). They're doing exactly the opposite. They've put together a whole "discbox" with lots of extras to make it more compelling to buy. Will.i.am specifically made his latest album a "cohesive story" to encourage people to buy the whole album. Reznor purposely tried to make his CD as cool as possible (it changes colors when you play it in a CD player) to encourage people to buy it -- even as he tells people at concerts to download his songs.
That brings up the second key point. For all the whining about "free" music, the complainers keep missing the fact that free is only a part of the business model. This seems to be the thing that people get most confused about when we discuss business models around free music. They get stuck on free and assume that if something's free, there's no way to make money. But, all of these bands are showing exactly the opposite is true. The Times Online has a story incorrectly headlined "The day the music industry died" discussing these exact changes, but as you read the details, the music industry is doing just fine -- it's just the folks in the recording industry who are in trouble. Musicians are raking in record revenue from concerts -- and the artists are realizing that the free music only helps generate more interest in those concerts. Listen to Alan McGee from Oasis and the Charlatans, saying that giving away the music for free was a can't miss proposition: "We increase our fan base, we sell more merchandise, more fans talk about the band and we get more advertising and more films (soundtracks). More people will get into the the Charlatans and will probably pay the money to see the show. I presume it will double the gig traffic, maybe even treble it."
In other words, more bands are recognizing exactly what a bunch of folks knew was inevitable at least a decade ago. Unshackle the music, give it away free, and use it to make a lot of other stuff a lot more valuable, and there's plenty of money to be made. The only sad part in all of this is that the record labels have been not just blind to the idea -- they've actively tried to discredit anyone who pointed it out to them.