October 2, 2007

Radiohead – back with a buzz

Like all the greats of music, Radiohead are not only geniuses at music but also at marketing. A few years back, Radiohead pioneered the use of video on the net with their blips (30 second music videos) for OK Computer, and they’ve launched their new album “In Rainbows” by letting fans decide how much they pay for downloads.

This is a fairly canny approach to the digital download issue which record companies have been wrestling with for a while. Thom Yorke has been a fairly strong voice promoting free file sharing in the past – regarding it as a great natural way to promote music (against the likes of Guns n Roses who think all file sharers should face the death penalty).

The main reason I regard this as canny is from my own experiences of democratic / honesty pricing. A few years ago I visited a bar in East Berlin where customers weren’t charged for their drinks at the bar, and there wasn’t a pricing structure as such – all people were expected to do was pay as much as they thought suitable to the doorman as you left. If you had a good time, then you’d pay more. A bad time, less.

According to research (I don’t know by who!) punters are more likely to pay more than less when an honesty system is put in place – so the East Berlin bar and Radiohead’s model makes sense. Having said that I haven’t been back to the East Berlin bar since, so I’d be interested to see if it’s still thriving – or even open! Likewise, I’d be interested to see if Radiohead’s record label is happy with the results – although with all the buzz generated by it, I expect they’ll come out on top . . .