Monday, October 22, 2007


I scribed last month about Chris Anderson’s upcoming book, Free. Hopefully the ink in his new tome’s not too dry to include a morsel or three about Radiohead’s new album (or is it CD, or music release, or digital delight? Not sure what we call contemporary music releases given the increasing lack of a tangible product …). As you’ve probably read – and hopefully experienced – you can download the entire album for whatever you’d like to pay. Nothing (me). Two pounds (my friend Craig; he called me a cheap bastard!). You choose. Go to Radiohead’s site for a taste.

Freakonomics has an interesting post here. Anderson checks in here, claiming early estimates put the average price paid at $5-$8, and approximately 1.2 million people have downloaded the album from the site and at least another 500,000 got it for free from BitTorrent.

If you’re a major label making a living manufacturing and distributing CDs and rights-protected digital downloads, whadya do when one of the (if not THE) major artists flips a double-Elvis (two middle fingers skyward) to you and your livelihood? Anderson:

Regardless of what the average consumer decides to pay, this is another example of a business model enabled by FREE. They only way Radiohead can enter into this with no idea of what people will pay is because they have a product whose marginal cost of manufacturing and distribution is close to zero.
Pretty cavalier. Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke told TIME:
I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘F___ you’ to this decaying business model.
Reminds me of a lesson I learned in my early 20’s, with thanks to the great Corley Phillips: It’s good to have f___ you money in your pocket. Radiohead: It’s gotta feel grand to have f___ you talent in tow too.

Post-script (27 Nov. 07): Anderson engages five common confusions/questions about "free":
  1. So nobody's going to make any money?
  2. Does any of this go beyond simply paying for things with advertising?
  3. You don't mean actually free, do you?
  4. This is just online, right?
  5. Is this some sort of trick?
Quality take, including: "You can make loads of money by giving things away. The key is who you're making money from."

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