Radiohead's album "In Rainbows" draws a surprising number of "freeloaders"

radiohead smallSo, in the end, 38 percent decided to pay for the lastest Radiohead album, “In Rainbows”, while 62 percent did not.

ComScore has provided the first definitive numbers regarding Radiohead’s decision to offer its latest album on a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth basis. The music world is keenly watching Radiohead’s experiment to cut out the middle man and go it alone. Other bands, such as Nine Inch Nails, are planning similar defections.

During the first 29 days of October, ComScore notes, 1.2 million people worldwide visited the InRainbows site, with a “significant percentage of visitors ultimately downloading the album.” Of those who decided not to pay for the album, 60 percent were from the United States, 64 percent from the rest of the world.

“I am surprised by the number of freeloaders,” Fred Wilson, managing partner of Union Square Ventures and a well-known music aficionado, told ComScore. “The stories to date about the “In Rainbows” ‘pick your price’ download offer have been much more optimistic. I paid $5 U.S. and had no reluctance whatsoever to take out my card and pay.

“But, this shows pretty conclusively that the majority of music consumers feel that digital recorded music should be free and is not worth paying for. That’s a large group that can’t be ignored and its time to come up with new business models to serve the freeloader market,” he said.

order confirmThe U.S., however, was willing to pay far more for each download ($8.05) compared with the rest of the world ($4.64). ComScore attributes this to more disposable income in the U.S. and the greater popularity of free file-sharing in other countries.

Of those willing to pay, the largest percentage (17 percent) paid less than $4, while 12 percent paid between $8 and $12, or approximately the cost of an album purchased via iTunes or AmazonMP3.

“The high percentage of users actually paying more than a few dollars for this download is actually pretty impressive,” Jim Larrison, general manager of corporate development at Adify, a provider of online ad network services, told ComScore. “I expected the vast majority of users to download the album for free or at most a few dollars. With 40 percent of consumers willing to pony up real money, this is a true win for the music industry as it shows there is still perceived value in the digital form of entertainment.

“Of course it does suggest that the marketplace is continuing to migrate and the music industry needs to shift with consumer behavior,” he said. “There are numerous methods to monetize the music, via shows and concerts, merchandising and box sets, commercial licensing, and even advertising; which is where the industry needs to progress towards, as the 40 percent paying for music might not be sustainable.”

In other Radiohead news, the band will be selling an “In Rainbows” boxed set, due in December, and will be working with the EMI label Parlophone to sell its full back catalog on a 4 GB USB stick in CD-quality WAV files, with digital artwork. The stick is in the shape of the Radiohead bear icon. It can only be purchased online.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

5 Responses to “Radiohead's album "In Rainbows" draws a surprising number of "freeloaders"”

  1. I’d be very interested to know how Comscore got their information. These sites are notoriously unreliable at monitoring basic traffic let alone getting detailed information. I would take it with a huge pinch of salt and I certainly wouldn’t call it definitive.

  2. terminal157 says:

    “But, this shows pretty conclusively that the majority of music consumers feel that digital recorded music should be free and is not worth paying for.”

    It’s far from conclusive. I, for one, payed nothing for the download because I plan to buy the CD when it comes out. I’m not alone in this. Also, many people decided to download for free and listen before deciding what it was worth to them.

    “In other Radiohead news, the band will be… working with the EMI label Parlophone to sell its full back catalog…”

    Actually, they have nothing to do with it and reports are surfacing that they’re angry about it. It’s entirely EMI’s doing, and it’s meant as payback for Radiohead signing with XL Records.

  3. if that is the case, then omg! those people don’t have a heart! In Rainbows, before it was out for your pricing scheme was a long journey for Radiohead! Have a heart Guys! Radiohead deserves more than a cent of of your opinion!

  4. ryan scott says:

    I might download it just to see what it sounds like – I am not a radiohead fan. So does that make me a freeloader or someone who is just trying before I buy?

    Give me a break. These numbers are interesting, but their interpretation is crap.

  5. Sounds to me like comScore was “hired” by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to swing the results in the industry’s favor. Truth of the matter is, for the first time in history, record labels no longer have the upper hand. Now, anyone with a computer can upload and market their own albums. I think the RIAA is finally starting to feel the effects of the “cyber age”. But like typical money-hungry corporations, they refuse to change along with technology, or attempt creative marketing ploys like Radiohead’s.

    In a few years, I could see everything changing…there will be very little reliance on record labels, with more artists sticking to the internet to market and release their own projects. I know I’ve learned to grasp things like BitTorrent, Reverbnation, and (as Radiohead has also done) to promote my own music by encouraging free distribution. Thousands of other bands have done the same. If you self-release albums, you can also keep WAY more of the profits than selling through a distributor.

    I’m neutral when it comes to Radiohead (though this album is good), but I paid $7 just because I hate the music industry, and feel my money should go to smaller bands and labels (Ipecac Recordings, for example), or bands such as Radiohead that are willing to grasp technology, and think outside the box. The RIAA has notoriously stolen artist royalties for years, then all of a sudden cry foul when people steal their lifeless, manufactured music.

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