I started writing this as a comment to Josh’s last post, but it got so long I figured I’d make a post out of it.Â Thanks for the inspiraiton, Josh.
I really hope Radiohead releases the data on its little experiment!Â My prediction: They will receive an average price of $2 and a median price of $0.Â
And I think Radiohead has a better chance of succeeding than that coffeeshop Josh wrote about (which is somewhere near here, right?Â I should really go grab some free coffee).Â Their fans are rabid, and they feel an emotional connection to the band unlike I imagine anyone has to a coffeeshop.Â There are people out there who believe that Radiohead changed their lives.Â Incidentally, these people are also anti-capitalists.Â And yet they will find themselves throwing money at the band, completely unnecessarily, simply because, well, it’s a whole new zeitgeist, man.Â
For the rest of us–the more rational Radiohead fans (it’s hard to deny the quality of this band.Â It’s hard to believe that the same public that loves Britney could also love something as good as Radiohead, but there it is)–views will be split.Â Some will feel an obligation to compensate the band for their work, although they will find it hard to explain exactly why they feel obligated if the band itself is not obligating them.Â Others will think it’s cool, and it’s an awesome slap in the face to the paleolithic record labels, and will contribute to the cause.Â And most will know that they would probably have just burned the CD from a friend anyway, and entering credit card information is such a pain, and, well, why should I pay if they don’t make me?Â And these people will pay nothing.Â A large subset of them will claim to have paid $5.
So what does the band get?Â For starters, some good press (although they hardly need that).Â They also get to satisfy their moral desire to bring down the (putatively) evil record labels (to say nothing of DRM!) and to demonstrate their disdain for capitalism and consumer culture.Â Consider it a form of charity.Â
Or competitive advantage.Â I can assure you that in a post-record-label/post-DRM world, where revenue comes from live performances and t-shirts, Radiohead will be in a considerably better position than the 4 million bands trying to make it on MySpace.
Here’s what else they get:Â An excellent mailing and e-mail list.Â To buy (or receive gratis) the album from the website one must enter name, email (and no cheating, since download codes are sent via email), address, cell phone number (but not home number.Â Anyone see mass text messaging in Radiohead’s future?), etc.Â For Radiohead, this is a valuable list, I imagine.Â It may also be valuable to any number of direct marketers and online advertising companies.Â
Mostly, though, I think Radiohead is leaving money on the table.Â And I also think that the band will not release the data, and we won’t know the extent to which this experiment fails.
I, for one, have already pre-ordered my copy.Â And of course I paid $5.
UPDATE:Â Steve Levitt wants to crunch the data.Â Note also the colorful quote from Thom Yorke (Radiohead’s front man) about the music industry’s “decaying business model.”