Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want experiment is going well, according to a band spokesman, who says that “most people are deciding on a normal retail price with very few trying to buy it for a penny.” Most pre-orders so far have been for the more expensive (we guess?) disc-box version, which comes with a book, two CDs, vinyl copies, more songs, and a ringtone of Thom Yorke mewing like a hurt cat. Oh, wait, no ringtone—that would make it a Ringle. [Wired]

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  1. CumaeanSibyl says:

    More expensive, unless you’re willing to pay more than forty pounds for the download.

    It’s nice, though, that when you buy the discbox you also get the download.

  2. AdamthePugh says:

    I am still a little scared as to when they finally charge me for the discbox how much it will actually convert to in US Dollars. Ouch!

  3. enm4r says:

    I think the first note is that Thom and friends are wealthy enough to do this without too much risk, and I say that as a diehard fan. It would be considerably more risky for a band just starting out.

    That said, it couldn’t have been a more perfect group to do this experiment. Radiohead are arguably a more nerdy/”internet culture-y” group, and anyone who could begin to think about “internet culture” is almost assuredly going to be familiar with, and probably love Radiohead. A corollary, is that I’d venture to say that people who love Radiohead are also much much more likely to be familiar with the various ways to pirate music, from newsgroups, to Soulseek, to oink.me.uk, to other torrent sources, etc etc. Point is, I’d bet the average Radiohead fan knows how to pirate with the best of them, and yet they’re still willing to pay. I think that’s pretty telling, and as we’re going to see, it’ll work out fabulously for Radiohead, who will now be making $8 a CD instead of the couple bucks at must they were making from their label.

    Also, I’m paying $5, because I’m curious to see if it comes to CD next year, and would like to pick that up if available.

  4. Penny? Damn I feel cheap trying to get it for free. Well, not too cheap. If I’m supposed to pay what I think it is worth, how do I know what it’s worth if I haven’t heard a single off the damn thing?

  5. cheesyfru says:

    I’m an indie musician [JoshWoodward.com], and all of my songs are available as free downloads, and I also sell CDs. I recently released two new CDs, and moved from a model of selling them for $10 flat to a name-your-own-price model. So far, the average price paid has been a healthy $8.20 plus shipping, and I’ve been selling far more CDs than my previous releases.

    Given the opportunity, most people will pay a fair price for things they want to support. I think Radiohead is in a good position to do this, since they have a dedicated following. If the pop-tart-du-jour tried this, I think they’d have a much lower return, though.

  6. Underpants Gnome says:

    Does anyone know how much of a CD sale actually goes to the artist? I’ve heard the number $0.30 thrown around. Assuming the average donation price is higher than that, they’re probably making more going this route.

  7. no.no.notorious says:

    @Underpants Gnome: it depends on the contract you sign. a smart artist will get more than 30 cents…pop tarts who just sign whats infront of them get about that or less

  8. sporks says:

    @Underpants Gnome: I think the average kickback artists get these days is anywhere from 25 cents to a buck, depending on the label. With bigger labels like Capitol, the figure’s going to be at the low end of the spectrum.

    …As for me, I’m still trying to figure out if I want to pay $80 for the box set, or $20 for the CD. I love Radiohead and I love that my money won’t go to fund the RIAA, so I’m more than willing to spend twice as much than I would at iTunes on a digital download.

  9. MeOhMy says:

    I think this could actually work for bands and similar products where people that love them support them happily and people that don’t like them have little reason to try and screw them (in other words if you don’t like Radiohead’s music and you know you don’t like Radiohead’s music there’s little reason to try and organize a mass cheap-out just to be a douche. Furthermore, you don’t gain very much by buying the CD for a penny if you don’t actually want it.

    There was a post about a year back about a pay-what-you-will restaurant and that seems riskier as eventually you will develop a following of cheapskates that will outweigh the generous people.

    In my college days doing bake sale fund raisers, we often found that offering free-will not only provided a loophole around the need to get approval from the dining hall contractor to “compete” with them, but it indeed increased our revenue. For every person that took a cupcake and gave us nothing in return, there would be 4 people who would take a cupcake and give us a dollar. If we charged a fixed price, all we would get is the fixed price.

    An interesting modifier would be to offer priority (You get the product first) or special bonuses (Cheap concert tix?) to the people in a specific time frame that offer to pay the most.

  10. S-the-K says:

    Can you enter a negative number? That is, you need to be PAID to listen to their music?

  11. mammalpants says:

    this is probably just a stunt to learn what the sweet spot is for selling music to the “p2p” crowd…radiohead probably doesnt even have THAT much creative freedom. it’s just angled as an artsy-fartsy creative experiment.

  12. stubar says:

    For those worrying about not hearing the music first, there are a number of sites that have bootlegs from their recent tour, sets which included all but one of the songs offered on the CD. And believe me, it’s worth it. (Disclosure: I f*cking adore Radiohead.)

  13. yg17 says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: I paid 5 pounds, which ended up being $11.46 charged to my debit card. Exchange rates change daily, so YMMV

  14. Timbojones says:

    @mammalpants: Radiohead was just released from their recording contract (7 albums), so now they have as much creative freedom as they want and can afford.

  15. Eludium-Q36 says:

    I’m doing the digital d/l for an entirely reasonable BP2.00 (USD4.00). And that’s FAR more than their typical take via RIAA (or RIUK or whatever) contract. And it’s awesome that’s it’s DRM-free and music player independent — take that and that Apple ! Look, we all want this to work really badly both for the band and for the public. This has the potential of being the DEFINING MOMENT in music history that sees the demise of the RIAAs of the world.

  16. Xerloq says:

    I just received this email (sorry for the all caps, it came this way…)
    THANK YOU FOR ORDERING IN RAINBOWS. THIS IS AN UPDATE.

    YOUR UNIQUE ACTIVATION CODE(S) WILL BE SENT OUT TOMORROW MORNING (UK TIME). THIS WILL TAKE YOU STRAIGHT TO THE DOWNLOAD AREA.

    HERE IS SOME INFORMATION ABOUT THE DOWNLOAD:

    THE ALBUM WILL COME AS A 48.4MB ZIP FILE CONTAINING 10 X 160KBPS DRM FREE MP3s.

    So, I’d like to know if everyone who paid gets the same bitrate MP3, or if the quality is proportional to the price paid. I have to confess, I put down $0.00 for the album, but I’m planning on buying the CD if the music is OK.