As humans we naturally share, and this has caused a real problem for the music industry. Nobody buys music anymore because music is in it’s most copiable format. It’s very sharable and it’s shared like crazy. It is easier to just find the album through file sharing sites and torrent links than to go to iTunes and fork up $10 for it. Musicians’ incentive to sell their music and work towards fame has all but faded nothing. The only way to profit in the industry is to perform tour after tour. Slinging the real talent into a catch 9 where they cannot continue without another production, but cannot produce another album because of touring is the only outcome.
A new music industry must exist where bands can earn a profit for new music. Some avid fans and listeners vow to pay for the music rather than pirating, but that won’t be enough. Laws of economics say that people will continue to steal music because free songs result in higher satisfaction (free CD+slight legal risk > $10 CD), at least for now.
Industry record labels are fighting the battle and bringing down pirates with the law, but new methods of madness will always prevail and they will never be able to keep up with the thievery. The only real solution to revive the music industry is to control the release of new music (now known as a leak) as much as possible to reveal some revenues and cut costs, for the musicians that is.
Radiohead has always experimented with releases and interesting ways to earn money from their music, such as with “In Rainbows,” but their new album “King of Limbs” was delivered perfectly and I’m sure they are seeing a nice stream of revenue from it’s release.
The key was the hype. No singles. No hints of a new album. It was pretty clear that they were working on new material because they were not touring. On Monday, Fans and the media spread the news of a release only days away. The world’s curiosity beckoned and everybody wanted to be the first to listen. Almost nobody had heard any tracks beyond Thom Yorke’s own cover of the song “Lotus Flower.” I cannot find and solid numbers, but tons of people prepaid for the digital download. $$$ right? And it created a collective listening experience that the world hadn’t seen in years.
Costs of this album were next to nothing in comparison to others. Radiohead has their own studio so they just create and put the mp3 files (or WAV) on the website for download. It’s simple and it’s genius. They cut the middle man (record labels), get closer to listeners and uncovered the potential to create cheaper music for the end consumer.
Radiohead are smart businessmen. They realize that they don’t need the support of record labels and have managed to cut them out of the way. This is where the music industry will head. Radiohead’s success was also largely due to their fame, but eventually smaller artists will have this same power to cut out the record labels.
I am inspired by both Radiohead’s progressive business mindset and amazing music. They’ve defined my taste for music and my out-of-the-box thinking. If you do not know Radiohead and have made it this far into my post, give them a listen!