Earlier this week the Web was abuzz that Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want experiment with its latest album, “In Rainbows”, drew a surprising number of freeloaders. But wait!
Radiohead claims that comScore, the Internet company which provided the initial numbers, is “totally inaccurate.” Radiohead said in a statement (via matthewingram.com):
“In response to purely speculative figures announced in the press regarding the number of downloads and the price paid for the album, the group’s representatives should like to remind people that . . . it is impossible for outside organisations to have accurate figures on sales.
“However, they [the band] can confirm that the figures quoted by the company comScore, Inc., are wholly inaccurate and in no way reflect definitive market intelligence or, indeed, the true success of the project.”
comScore senior Analyst Andrew Lipsman, of course, defends his company’s results. “We’re confident in our data,” he said in an MTV news report. “There’s minimal margin of error based on the size of the sample we used and the narrow range of values.” (See comScore’s blog for more detail.)
People can use numbers to say whatever they want about something. In the case of the Radiohead album, I thought comScore’s numbers were off, but what do I know? I just paid for the download after finding the album for free elsewhere on the Web.
What’s important here is the impact that Radiohead’s decision to take control of its music and distribution is having on the rest of the music industry. Unless the pay-what-you-want experiment is a total bust (and it does not appear to be so), Radiohead is influencing other bands to buck the system and try something different, if they are able to do so.
Trent Reznor, the leader of Nine Inch Nails, plans to do what Radiohead did with his own music. In the meantime, Reznor is the producer of a solo album by Saul Williams; he’s making it available as a free (or pay what you want) download as 192 Kbps MP3s.
As Mashable notes, Reznor is “betting that giving away music as MP3 and selling a few CDs where he gets nearly 100 percent of the revenue will beat out selling it all to CD and getting 1 percent of the net revenue.”
I’ve never heard of Saul Williams, but I’m downloading the music. And if I like it, I’ll buy it. (So far it’s 50 Cent and NWA meets Nine Inch Nails. A cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is pretty cool.)
Radiohead CD update: In the last bit of Radiohead news for the week, the band has set a Dec. 31 international release date for the physical version of “In Rainbows.” The music will be released on CD and vinyl outside the United States by indie label XL Recordings, whose stable includes the White Stripes and M.I.A. U.S. details have not been finalized.