Posted November 9, 2007 4:41 pm by with 8 comments

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Earlier this week, comScore released data that said that 62% of Radiohead downloaders don’t pay. While plenty came to the band’s defense, we had no official word on the price people were paying.

Mathew Ingram reports that Radiohead has contradicted comScore’s report in an official statement:

In response to purely speculative figures announced in the press regarding the number of downloads and the price paid for the album, the group’s representatives would like to remind people that… it is impossible for outside organisations to have accurate figures on sales.

However, they can confirm that the figures quoted by the company comScore Inc are wholly inaccurate and in no way reflect definitive market intelligence or, indeed, the true success of the project.

And although Radiohead now has said that comScore is wrong, they haven’t released official numbers, either, telling the BBC (via MTV) that they “not for public consumption” as “people were still downloading [the album].” Of course, sales numbers aren’t the only measure of success. If buzz and free publicity were their goal, that’s one point that’s certainly gone in their favor.

Naturally, comScore is rebutting Radiohead’s rebuttal and defending their ability to “reflect definitive marketing intelligence” (which is, after all, their bread and butter) on their blog:

For the Radiohead study, we observed the activity of nearly one thousand people who visited the “In Rainbows” site, a significant percentage of whom downloaded the album. We ultimately observed several hundred paid transactions, all of which ranged between $0-$20, representing a very robust sample for estimating the average price paid per transaction. It’s true that any sample has natural variability, so these numbers are, in fact, estimates. However, when you have a relatively large sample falling within a narrow range of values (i.e. there’s a small standard deviation), the margin of error in the estimate is minimized.

Many people seem to think that comScore’s 2-million-member panel must not have been representative of the proportion of rabid Radiohead fans out there who gladly paid for the album (although the long-time Radiohead fans I know didn’t pay a dime).

However, the entire premise behind statistics is that you can look at a small (sometimes amazingly small!) proportion of the population and with a fair amount of confidence extrapolate that information to reflect the full population.

So is comScore “wholly inaccurate”? I’d be willing to buy that they’re not perfectly on, but until I see actual figures, I’ll go with the data I’ve got.

  • It would be great if Radiohead actually gave us some stats to see how they compare with the comScore ones ..

  • I think Radiohead did very well out of this. Even if only 38% of those who downloaded the album paid anything for it they still have made well over a million dollars in one month. Not bad going and I believe that’s more than they’d have gotten if they went the more traditional route of selling over-priced CDs to loyal fans.

    The way I sum it up in my blog post: “Give your fans something for nothing, make a fortune from it and screw the record companies!”

  • Hear hear! Sean McGoldrick! That is a perfectly accurate summation of yours. I laughed and applauded all at the same time as i read it, it so completely reflects my thoughts.

  • After all it feels like all Radiohead did was make some buzz for their album and boom the sales.

  • Jordan as far as a small sample size being extrapolated with accuracy it depends on where you got the sample. Alexa is also taking a small sample and I think you’d agree it doesn’t produce the most accurate results. I think comScore’s data is probably better, but it really depends on how random that sample is.

    They are, of course, the only numbers we have so far.

    As for Radiohead even if we accept the comScore numbers I’m not sure they lose. Is $5 really less than what they would have gotten from the record company? If it is how much less.

    I mentioned this in the last post, but the real money for bands is made on concert and merchandise sales. Radiohead won’t lose anything on these. If anything they could make more by having gained new fans after giving the music away.

    After your last post I decided to download the album. I paid exactly $0, but Radiohead didn’t lose a dime on that, because I wasn’t going to buy the cd. They were making $0 on me no matter how they distributed the music.

    I don’t know their music. I have a hunch I do know and like some, but have never realized it was Radiohead. Now I can listen to some of their music and if I like it I will buy the next album. They don’t lost anything, but potentially gain a new fan.

    The win for Radiohead is they made loyal fans more loyal and will potentially pick up a lot of new fans that they can sell to later.

  • Victor

    I really like the way Radiohead plays.. I loved their new cd! Have you seen when they covered The Smiths? The band sang The Headmaster Ritual in a webcast. Here is the video:
    They are great aren’t they? 😀

  • Victor

    I really like the way Radiohead plays.. I loved their new cd! Have you seen when they covered The Smiths? The band sang The Headmaster Ritual in a webcast. Here is the video:
    They are great aren’t they? 😀

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