Early on in my blogs, I had written about piracy hurting the indpendents more than the majors primarily because the independents don't have the alternative income streams.
Radiohead is making an interesting move. They are giving the "fans" a chance to decide what downloading their album is worth. Is this a viable strategy?
The fact is that Radiohead recently finished a major label contract. The easiest way to think of a major label contract is as a "loan." The label loans you money to spend making your records and music videos and touring. You then get a percentage of sales from income and it goes into paying off your loan. After about five albums, you end up making money of your own.
Now here is the "thing" - it's in the studios advantage to keep you in debt. (Just like keeping homeowners in debt is advantageous to the financial industry.)
So - after many years artists figure out how much the labels are making from them and when their contract is up they feel "Emancipated" (thus the name of The Artist once and now again known as Prince.... (a name change that was specifically geared to help him get out of his contract)..
So here we have Radiohead and their offer for audiences to decide how much to pay.
I think for them it's a brilliant move. Why?
1. They're already used to only getting a percentage of album sales, and now even if they get less, they get it all.
2. Maybe if people only had to spend one buck buying the radiohead album instead of downloading it - they'd actually do it. So - if ten times more people are willing to pay 1 dollar for the whole album than 10 dollars per album at itunes - Radiohead comes out ahead.
3. This is the big one... Radiohead is a major band already and doing this is getting major headlines. It's fantastic marketing. What is the one thing Radiohead is going to lose by being independent? The huge marketing of a major label. Well, seems like they've gotten creative about it already.
4. For the most part - Bands make a lot more money on tours than they do from album sales, so if this can get them more fans or fuel their current fan base - they'll win big.
How about indies?
All Radiohead has to do is continue a fan base. What if you were an indie artist who needed to build a fan base - could you use this same technique?
The only advantage you'll have is that more people will be exposed to your music. Frankly, I think a ton of people will download Radiohead's album and pay nothing for it. But - in advertising there is a word called "induce trial." I thik there is probably a drug trafficking word with a similar intent. You want people to at least try your product just so they want more of it.
If anyone needs to induce trial - it would be smaller indie bands.
Sadly though - a small, indie band offering their music for free is not called marketing. It's called "Myspace."
I don't think there is any one secret way to you get your indie band in the public I think the key to marketing is to come up with things that have never been done before. If done well, this will relate intimately to what you're doing. For example, A Nora Jones-ish performer getting promotion from someone scaling a skyscraper with a flag of their name on their back isn't really congruent - and while that very fact might garner them publicity - it wouldn't really do much to establish their "Brand." However, how many times have you heard about hard rock bands trashing hotel rooms? Why? Because hotel rooms are cheap to repair and the publicity from their crazy act is worth a lot more than the New TV and some paint - and mostly - it supports the controlling idea of the band - this band causes chaos - they're "hard core." Congruent marketing.
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