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October 9, 2007

Radiohead wrap

This came out of a discussion on MusicThoughts. There's heap of commentary about the new Radiohead approach to releasing albums but I think a lot of people are reading far too much into this. The strategy is transparent and ... well ... a no-brainer.

They have two main priorities: 1) recoup costs of making the album and 2) pre-promote it as much and as far as possible. Nothing new there - that's the eternal problem of new releases.

On 1), my bet is that they have budgeted to sell enough units of the high-price packages to recoup. Hard-core fans will lap it up and will support the band (I'm not a fan, BTW). Anything they make on lesser packages and DD is a bonus - hence the "what it's worth" approach. This is just differential pricing applied to music packages - nothing new here.

On 2), well it's gold. They've gotten world-wide attention for their album because of the strategy, not the album. I call this "third leg" marketing and they've done it brilliantly. The trouble is that it won't work next time because it's been done already - they will have to innovate again ... and the album had better be great because otherwise it won't live up to the hype and they'll fall victim to the same trap as the majors in recent years. Note, also that, having made a huge splash, they're now being "courted" by majors for the hard-copy release (http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003653086) - I hope that isn't seen as cynical and doesn't backfire. *Never* disappoint the music-buying public - especially the anti-label crowd.

As a result of 2) they will probably make a heap from merch, hard copies of the eventual release and touring but, as a strategy, that's not gonna help anyone else much. Nice idea, but use once and throw away. A bit like their records, IMHO - though I'll certainly give this one a listen.

But if, as Coolfer notes, this innovation has gotten people thinking long and hard about alternatives to the dominant paradigm, that wonderful and I'm all for it. bring on the evolution!

Posted by Hughie at October 9, 2007 10:04 AM

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