Now that Radiohead’s, much talked about album, In Rainbows, is being downloaded (paid for?? maybe) by fans all over the world, all eyes are looking in the bands’ direction to see what will happen now. I hope the band will eventually disclose some figures on how this panned out for them. How many times was album downloaded? What was the average price paid for the album?
But for now, if you want to get an idea of where the music industry is heading, you will have to look a little deeper into the industry just than whats been going on with Radiohead. No surprise here but it’s all about marketing.
Rick Rubin & WOM
Legend Rick Rubin has teamed up Columbia Records to be their new co-chairman. Rubin had this to say about his new position, in the New York Times, “In the past, I’ve tried to protect artists from the label, and now my job would also be to protect the label from itself. So many of the decisions at these companies are not about the music. They are shortsighted and desperate. For so long, the record industry had control. But now that monopoly has ended, they don’t know what to do. I thought it would be an interesting challenge.”
Rubin thinks that he can save Columbia by generating word-of-mouth using street teams and social media that hit up chat rooms, teen hot spots and hangouts. I think it’s going to take a little more than roughly contrived buzz to save this sinking ship.
Following the extreme amount of buzz created by Radiohead’s “pay what you want for it” internet release of In Rainbows, some big names in the industry are reevaluating their relationships with their music labels. Alan McGee, the manager of the Charlatans had this to say, “The record industry is obsessed by age and fashion. And so you get these amazing British bands like the Charlatans and the Happy Mondays that were massive 10 years ago and are still great, but are out of contract. How do you get them profile? You give away the record.”
There are also rumors that Oasis, and Jamiroquai are considering following in Radiohead’s release in similar fashion for their next albums.
The Format is not a new name to The Fresh Peel. They are a band that I have discussed here a few times before (even did a phone interview with Nate Ruess, the bands front man), one because they are one of my favorite bands, and two because they tend to do things their own way.
One of the smartest thing I’ve seen the band do is give away their most recent album, Dog Problems, by making it free to download if you signed up for their newsletter. This happend right before they started a big tour and before releasing some new live material. I think a few factors that led to the idea to give the album away, one being that they realized the power that file sharing has played in their popularity and they decided to stoke the fire in that area and use word-of-mouth even more in that area. Also, by having fans sign up for the newsletter, they were given permission to keep fans updated on when live shows would be in their area, or when they were releasing new material. Thirdly, when I had my interview with Nate in April, he mentioned that he thought that the real money wasn’t in selling albums anymore and that the real cash these days is in merchandising and shows.
Brad Sucks is an interesting artist to include in this list. He is probably not a name that’s familiar to many of you, but I think his approach is worth noting.
As far as I know Brad, who calls himself “one man band with no fans,” has been giving away his music from day one, and ironically he doesn’t suck and has a few fans. Brad states that, “most of the ‘marketing’ Brad Sucks does is just fans spreading my songs. So while I might make a few more dollars up front, I’d be hindering that whole process and that doesn’t seem like a good trade for the long term.”
What’s even more unusual is that Brad lets people mashup, mix up, and screw up his tracks all they like. In fact, he encourages it by giving away the source files to his music willingly. In one of Brad’s latest self-promotions, from his blog, he offered up the source file to his newest song, Out of It, asking for readers to submit their attempts at backup vocals on the track.
With the fall of the music label, some of the industries biggest names have found a gold mine in touring, which makes it even more appealing to leave the label out of the equation all together.
Here’s the complete list of the best-paid performers to tour the U.S. last year according to PollStar’s data (via Wire Blog):
- Rolling Stones $150.6m
- Tim McGraw and Faith Hill $132m
- Rascal Flatts $110.5m
- Madonna $96.8m
- Barbara Streisand $95.8m
- Kenny Chesney $90.1m
- Celine Dion $85.2m
- Bon Jovi $77.5m
- Nickelback $74.1m
- Dave Matthews Band $60.4m
Who cares about album sales, when The Rolling Stones, who haven’t released any new material, aside from greatest hits albums, is bringing home the most dough on the touring circuit.
‘Music Is Not a Loaf of Bread’
I couldn’t help but slip in some quotes from a Wired News interview with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, from 2004. It’s a few years old, but what Tweedy says is still relevant today.
WN: What if the efforts to stop unauthorized music file sharing are successful? How would that change culture?
Tweedy: If they succeed, it will damage the culture and industry they say they’re trying to save. What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.
Stop trying to treat music like it’s a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can’t be cheap, either.
WN: How do you feel about efforts to control how music flows through the online world with digital rights management technologies?
Tweedy: A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that’s it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it’s just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work. Treating your audience like thieves is absurd.
This is pretty open-ended, but where do you think the music industry is headed?