A few weeks after the hoopla over the Radiohead “pay what you like” event has died down, comScore measures who actually paid what for “In Rainbows”. The good news: The average buyer paid about $6, net of processing fees, to download the album. The bad news: There weren’t that many buyers — only 2 out of 5 visitors to the site paid a penny for the tunes.
The net result: Radiohead netted about $2.26 for each album downloaded — confirming our suspicions that earlier reports/polls about download prices were overly optimistic. And for everyone who thought that “In Rainbows” represented a new paradigm for music, remember: Radiohead has a rabid fan base that was expected to go out of its way to stick it to the man/R.I.A.A. If they can’t sell music, what does that mean for the rest of the business?
That said, this still doesn’t mean that Radiohead’s ditch-your-label strategy was a bad call: comScore’s survey suggests that the band could still have netted as much as $2.7 million from downloads, and will keep almost every penny — and it still gets to sell CDs, and it will keep a larger portion of each dollar generated by those sales.
Most important, Radiohead has complete control of the process, and will own the music it created in perpetuity. Why does that matter? Ask the band’s old label, EMI Music, which announced today that it will be packaging all of the band’s old music in a set of CDs ($80), a set of digital downloads ($70), or funny-shaped USB stick ($160 — really).
Follow-Up: Radiohead says its fans aren’t cheapskates.