Radiohead has the number one spot on the Billboard charts today after selling 122,000 copies of “In Rainbows” in the U.S. Billboard notes that this is a lot less than the band’s 2003 album “Hail To The Thief,” which sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
Of course, the trade mag allows, the comparison is “somewhat unfair,” because of Radiohead’s well-publicised Web distribution stunt. What a marvellous understatement: It is astonishing that Radiohead has sold more a few thousand copies of the new album, since it gave the gave the thing away last year. We’d expect a handful of Radiohead “completists” to buy the disc, and a few more audiophiles to pony up as well — the MP3s the band sold/gave away last fall were at a relatively low quality bitrate.
But more than 100,000 is impressive, and also lucrative for the band: Since it owns the album outright, it should pocket $5 or more for each disc sold. Under Radiohead’s old deal with EMI, it would have received an advance for the album but would have been unlikely to see any royalties for individual discs sold.
But important to stress that the “give it away on the Web/sell it in stores” model won’t be catching on anytime soon. Radiohead’s manager has already indicated that it was a one time thing for the band, and lead singer Thom Yorke recently acknowledged to Wired that it’d be hard to see any other act pulling it off:
The only reason we could even get away with this, the only reason anyone even gives a shit, is the fact that we’ve gone through the whole mill of the business in the first place. It’s not supposed to be a model for anything else. It was simply a response to a situation. We’re out of contract. We have our own studio. We have this new server. What the hell else would we do? This was the obvious thing. But it only works for us because of where we are.
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