Is anyone really surprised by the latest headlines from Radiohead’s recent In Rainbows release?
Fans were invited to put their own price on the 10 MP3 files that made up In Rainbows, from nothing to ?100.
But internet monitoring company Comscore found that only 38% of downloaders willingly paid to do so.
Well you can count me among the 62% majority. To be perfectly honest, I had every intention of paying something for the album, but instead I left disappointed with the whole thing and a bit let down by the hype.
So what went wrong? First of all, I’m all for avant-garde web site design and breaking the mold, but something still bothered me about the In Radios web site. Maybe it was too Web 1.0 for it’s own good. I wanted answers and instead found only one-line quips about how it was “up to me”. Well yeah I gathered that, thank you very much.
Secondly and most importantly, am I the only one who expected to be able to listen to the album before deciding how much it was worth? Maybe that option was on the site somewhere, lost amidst the psychedelic background… but I didn’t find it. I suspect may others would have encountered the same problem. How do I value something when I don’t really even know what it is?
Could I have tried harder to pay for this album? Sure – I could have probably searched for a sample of the album before hand. I could have returned to the site after initially downloading it for free to purchase it for my “fair” price. Did I do those things? No of course I didn’t . Partly because I couldn’t be bothered and partly because when it comes to music I’m what I call an “instant gratification listener”. If the mood strikes me to listen to a particular music that I don’t currently own, I wan’t to be able to hit the play button and be on with it. Years and years of downloading music for free will do that to a person, I suppose. Oh don’t look at me like that – it’s not like I haven’t tried. I purchased Kayne West’s first album on Puretracks… then I lost the licenses after a Windows re-intall and bought a non-Windows Media media player. Then I swore never to buy DRM again.
The point is, music distribution is still fatally flawed – especially for the “instant gratification listener”. I won’t go into all of the problems facing the music industry – David Gratton does a good job of commenting on that with a local spin, if you’re interested in reading more. Instead I have a solution to propose. It centres around one key question: When are people most likely to pay for music? You know those moments when you’re listening to a song, and it just draws you in so far that it completely transforms who or where you are? Those are the moments that make me go “damn, I wish I had paid for this song.” And yet when the headphones are out that thought is gone. If the labels and artists want to capitalize on their music, then they should be working on ways of capitalizing on that feeling that great music gives you – however fleeting it may be. And please don’t tell me how much that feeling is worth, let me decide.
As disappointed as I was with the In Rainbows experience, at least Radiohead is heading in the right direction.