Radiohead, the English rock band is striking out on their own when it comes to online sales of their newest album. When Radiohead’s contract with recording company EMI expired, they decided not to sign a deal but to sell their music through their web site.
They recently completed their seventh studio album, In Rainbows. They launched a new site this month, where you can preorder a digital download on their web site. This message greets you (no yells at you):
RADIOHEAD HAVE MADE A RECORD.
SO FAR, IT IS ONLY AVAILABLE FROM THIS WEBSITE.
YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT IN THESE FORMATS: DISCOBOX AND DOWNLOAD.
A “discbox” is a collection with an In Rainbows CD, a bonus CD from the recording sessions, a vinyl copy of In Rainbows with bonus tracks, and a hardcover book. They are being experimental here too. If you preorder the download fans are promised that they can decide how much they want to pay for the album. I’m not quite sure what that means, a vote? How about free?
It sounds like not having a day job and deciding to be your own boss. It’s freeing at first, but you can start missing the regular paycheck. This is how they put it: “for the first time, we have no contract or release deadline to fulfill – it’s both liberating and terrifying.”
Since distribution is vital to selling records, I wonder what other plans RadioHead has for their marketing. They shunned iTunes because they didn’t want to sell a song at a time. It’s the complete album or no album.
My take – the music industry needs distribution partners who know new media. I also don’t think you can fight the trend. Fans want to download their music one a song at a time. Their on iTunes and other music download sites. Only the diehards will keep coming to you directly. I guess it’s a strategy for idealists. However, for a pre-lease strategy, I like it.