The so called Radiohead In Rainbows model has been praised, criticized, analyzed, turned over and regurgitated so many times I’ve lost count myself. Their act of musical revolt against the major labels and conventionality for that matter, has lead to a wave of enlightenment among similar bands, who’ve since then released albums under the same technique. Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails is the first example that comes to mind, mimicking the Radiohead effect not once, but twice!
Now, however, after much small talk around the subject, we’re finally treated with some data and figures by the record label revolutionaries, after Radiohead’s publishers Warner Chappell released some official numbers regarding the widely successful experiment, at the “You Are In Control” conference in Iceland.
Without further bullshit, here are the numbers: 3 million downloads (paid and free, according to the user’s choice) and even 100.000 copies of the limited edition box sets (yeah, quite expensive). The numbers, of course, don’t count the millions of unregistered BitTorrent downloads, nor the physical record sales. Quite impressive, right?
The average ‘payee’ figure hasn’t been released, though, but according to a previous survey, conducted by Record of the Day, we could approximate that each user paid around £4, roughly 7$, each. Now, multiply that number by 3 million, and you might be in for a surprise… Sure, they had tons of expenses, like the non-negligence bandwidth costs, production, tours etc. Somewhat simple things that used to be covered by labels, but now which the band has to face, financially, by themselves.
This still leaves them with enough money, though, and, frankly, they deserved it. They released an impeccable album and had the courage to stand up. Quite inspiring shit. However, can anyone apply the model? The answer is no. Only bands with a huge, loyal (zealot-like in the case of NIN) following like that of Radiohead can make it big. If you’re a small, somewhat obscure, indie band you can follow the model somehow: release the album for free. This way your music will get to as many ears as possible. Maybe even to the ears of a label. You know, you get signed by a label. Play for 10 ten years until you get famous, then ditch the label and make millions. HA!