It’s been just over a year since Radiohead released In Rainbows online for the then-revolutionary price of “whatever you want” and the band’s publisher is finally answering the question plaguing the music industry since In Rainbows‘ debut. “How much money did Radiohead actually make from this strategy?”
Well, actually, they’re not saying exactly how much Thom Yorke & Co. pulled in, but Warner/Chappell does claim, via Music Ally, that the band made more money before In Rainbows was physically released than they made on their last studio album for EMI, Hail to the Thief.
But did they really? By releasing In Rainbows exclusively online without a label Radiohead forwent any advance they would have received from their former label EMI, who likely cut them a nice check for Chief. So, what Warner/Chappell is really talking about is royalty money, and, by that measure, the album was a success for both Radiohead and Warner/Chappell. According to Music Ally, Warner/Chappell licensed the band’s music directly and bundled Radiohead’s digital rights, so they were able to generate more money from royalties for themselves and the band than was possible under the traditional system.
Here’s more from Music Ally:
Today Warner Chappell’s Head of Business Affairs Jane Dyball will reveal that the digital publishing income from the first licence (for the Radiohead pay what you want site) alone dwarfed all the band’s previous digital publishing income and made a “material difference” to Warner Chappell UK’s digital income.
The publisher will also confirm that Radiohead had made more money before ‘In Rainbows’ was physically released than they made in total on the previous album ‘Hail To the Thief’. It should be pointed out that Radiohead’s existing digital income was of course low, because they had withheld licensing the likes of iTunes…
But, the digital experiment wasn’t an unqualified success. As expected with any Internet release, Bit Torrent downloads cut into legal sales.
It’s clear that the BitTorrent downloads did indeed greatly outnumber those from Radiohead’s official site. But this was almost certainly always likely to be the case and all of this should not negate the ‘success’ of the experiment. And it was certainly an interesting aside to learn that of the dozen or so exclusive members of the ‘circle of trust’ who knew about the whole pay-what-you-like experiment before it launched, it was the band’s manager Chris Hufford from Courtyard management who won the sweepstakes on how many downloads there would be, the average price paid and how many box sets they would shift!
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