You no doubt have heard about Radiohead’s “pay what you feel like” move for their next album.
Actually, you have five options:
1) You can get an MP3 of the album and pay a small credit card transaction fee plus whatever you feel like giving the band, and get it October 10 or
2) You can steal it the usual way, no doubt on October 10, too and/or:
3) You can wait until early 2008 to buy a full audio CD, probably for about $15, give or take a few bucks, or
4) If you can’t wait that long, you can pay five times as much and get it in early December. Yes, you get some “extras” for your extra $65:
So instead of some evil record company charging you $5 or $10 too much, Radiohead will charge you $50 too much. Or:
5) You can steal the extras on the CD and copies of the artwork the usual way, no doubt in early December, too.
But that’s not the real problem here.
The issue isn’t whether or not Radiohead will do well by this, for a number of reasons, they probably will do well from this.
The problem is what does this do to all the other musicians if this catches on. Where does this put those bands that don’t have millions of dollars of promotional support over the years to piggyback, nevermind the free publicity from this tactic? What happens to bands that haven’t had a couple dozen million album sales if “pay what you want” becomes the norm?
Radiohead can well afford to self-finance and publicize this album (especially with that $80 option). What about everyone else?
To quote a couple people who can see past the tips of their noses (posts 193 and 195):
“Great….Lets just keep the record companies out of the equation and deprive them of the money they spent promoting acts like this to a wider audience. Without them Radiohead would still be stuck in some small town in England doing live gigs at the local pub hoping someone would see thier self financed video amongst 2 million or so others on Youtube.You,as the consumer,no matter how much you dislike record companies,owe them for weeding out all the garbage that is out there today and promoting it to a new audience.”
It’s amusing to see the mob mentality displayed in these comments, repeatedly voicing distain for record labels. Have we all forgotten the reason we know and love Radiohead is because a record label believed they were special enough to spend significant amounts of money promoting the band? Without that investment, Radiohead would likely be another bar band floating aimlessly throughout England. . . .
It is easy for Radiohead, as wealthy musicians, to now scoff at the very system that has provided them a meaningful and lasting existence. What many “fans” don’t realize, however, is that promoting music cost money. For example, take a recent review you’ve read of your favorite band on your favorite indie hippster blog. Then realize, that blog didn’t review the record just because it’s good. No, the reason you read that review is because there is a publicist working media outlets just to get good new bands noticed. That publicist is charging anywhere from $2000-$5000 a month. Now, add on top of that the cost to make a decent sounding indie record: $10,000-$25,000. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost to advertise the record: $1,800 a month. If you add these costs up, even on the low side, your looking at $15,000-$20,000 minimum to release a record you would even be remotely interested in. Where is the next Radiohead going to get that kind of money?
It certainly isn’t going to come from playing bar gigs paying $100-$200. And it isn’t going to come from local fans meager donations for downloads. It’s going to come from a label taking a 1 in 10 chance that a band is actually going to stay together long enough to build up a fan base, make great art, and sell records.
While this comment is centainly not aimed at saluting major labels (as they deserve much of the criticism levied against them), it is to suggest that if we don’t buy records and support artists, there will be less of them, or alternatively, the good ones will be more difficult to find. Then, we will have only ourselves to blame for being reduced to shifting through the mass of junk on every myspace hoping to find that next gem. While some may relish in this concept, I, for one, do not.
Is that the world you really want? Radiohead may be posing as rebels screwing the Man on your behalf, but if they really were, why are they going to have a regular CD release? Why not also release lossless rips on the same payment plan so there would be no need to buy a CD? Why not charge $20 without the vinyl, $30 if you actually want it, rather than $80 for their “discbox”?
No, I’m afraid the major screwing won’t be to the record companies, they’ll just downsize and then give us the world a diet of High School Musicals, Daughters of Hillary Duff, and every old rocker with a name outside of a nursing home.
No, the real screwing will be given to the Radioheads of the future who’ll be lost in that world of junk: a million garage bands will have five hundred fans each.
Think about it.