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Little gold at end of band's Rainbow

07 ноября 2007

The marketing coup scored by Radiohead when the band invited fans to choose what, if anything, they paid for a digital download of their latest album may not have been the commercial success some hoped.

Little gold at end of band's RainbowJust 38 per cent of the people downloading the album, In Rainbows , paid any more than the 45p handling charge, according to ComScore, a digital measurement group, which based its conclusions on a poll of its 2m-strong global database of consumers.

Of those paying something, the average amount paid was $6 (£2.88) - well below the price the band could have charged for a CD or a digital album on Apple's iTunes. Analysts were split yesterday, however, over whether this counted as a success or a failure.

Industry bodies such as the IFPI estimate that consumers around the world typically download 20 tracks illegally for every digital download they pay for, suggesting that Radiohead has done better than most in beating the threat of illegal file-sharing.

Industry commentators noted Radiohead would not have to share whatever revenue they received with a record label or other third party, and that Comscore's analysis did not report how many fans had opted to buy the £40 box set, which the band also offered.

Comscore gave no estimate of how many people had downloaded the album, but said 1.2m people visited Radiohead's website in the first 29 days of October. Its analysis revealed big differences in the amounts paid in the US and elsewhere. While 40 per cent of American downloaders paid for the album, compared with 36 per cent outside the US, international fans paid far less - an average of $4.64, compared with $8.05 in the US.

Comscore estimated the figures reflected higher disposable incomes in the US and the greater popularity of file-sharing in other countries, where legal digital music platforms such as iTunes are less developed.

Radiohead's Oxford-based management company said last month that the digital release was predominantly a promotional tactic to boost sales of a compact disc of the album, which is due out in January.

EMI, Radiohead's label until now, had hoped to secure the rights to the CD, but all the major record companies lost out to XL Recordings, which secured Radiohead's recording deal outside the US and Japan last week.

Guy Hands, of Terra Firma, EMI's new private equity owner, had instructed its staff to see the Radiohead experiment as a model of the innovation needed in the struggling music business.

This week, EMI sought to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the new Radiohead album by releasing seven old albums by the band as a box set and on a USB memory stick.

Radiohead has joined a growing pantheon of artists whose digitally driven success may not be all it seems. The Arctic Monkeys, Sandi Thom and Lily Allen were hailed as the first acts to emerge from MySpace, but only reached a mass audience after signing old-fashioned recording deals or being picked up by radio, television and the retail industry.

Radiohead is hoping its download will serve as a taster for the higher-quality physical album and the £40 box set.

Analysts doubt that every artist will copy the Radiohead model, but such experiments are becoming mainstream: Cliff Richard, aged 67, last week invited fans to set the price of his next album, based on the volume of advance orders. 

Источник: Financial Times

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