All posts by daanwildeboer

Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want experiment

It was some years ago, but still people are talking about it. The band Radiohead decided to use the online channel in their own advantage, instead of considering it their enemy in the form of illegal online downloading. Dimitris used this example in class, illustrating how business (or bands) can use the new channels to their benefit. I was curious what the end result of this experiment was. The following article answers that question:

Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” Experiment was a Success

CNN/Fortune hated the idea so much that they listed it in their 101 Dumbest Moments in Business article. In 2007, Radiohead made their album In Rainbows available for download before physical copies were available in stores. You could choose to simply download the album or voluntary pay an amount of your choice. Radiohead didn’t reveal any statistics related to the download; the known data comes from comScore, who reported that:

  • 62% of the downloaders chose to pay nothing
  • The remaining 38% voluntarily paid an average of $6 for the album

Based on these numbers and Radiohead’s silence, the CNN/Fortune article inlcuded the sneering line “Can’t wait for the follow-up album, In Debt.”

It turns out that Radiohead’s experiment was actually a success. Techdirt points to a report onMusic Ally that says that Radiohead’s publisher Warner Chappell will tell all about the In Rainbows experiment at the “You are in Control” music conference now taking place in Iceland.

The “success” of which they speak isn’t the hand-wavy “artistic”, “critical” or “proving a point” kind, but the sort of success that bottom-line thinkers like: In Rainbows made more money beforethe the album was physically released than the total sales for the previous album, Hail to the Thief. Even when preceded by a free or “pay what you can” downloads, In Rainbows has still sold 1.75 million copies of the CD to date, and it’s still in the top 200 selling CDs in the U.S. and U.K..

The Music Ally article has more details and includes these statistics:

  • After being made available online for free for 3 months, In Rainbows hit number one on both U.S. and U.K. charts.
  • 30,000 copies were sold on iTunes in its first week.
  • 1.75 million CDs of the album have been sold since its release.
  • 100,000 box sets have been sold through Radiohead’s sales and merchandising site,W.A.S.T.E..
  • 17 million plays on
  • 1.2 million fans will see their tour.
  • The digital income from the experiment made a material difference to Warner Chappell Music’s UK digital revenue this year.

Virtual Branding

Due to the case of UnMe Jeans I started to think about brand placement in virtual worlds, like Second Life and Zwinktopia. And I cannot help to feel some kind of paradox in this ”virtual branding”. Let me explain why.

The reason, in my opinion, that people participate in these virtual worlds, is to forget about their real life for a moment and create their own little fanatsy world. Sometime people feel even better in this virtual world then in their real life. We all know the stories of people who spend hours and hours on Second Life, neglecting friends, family and sometime even their children.

So people participate in virtual worlds to escape their busy and active life. Part of what makes their life so busy is the constant bombardment of brands, and the choices we have to make between brands each day. So it must be pretty nice to enter a world with no brands and advertisments, a world like Second Life for example.

So you see my paradox now? Brands are now longer sticking to the real world, and are entering the virtual worlds! So doesn’t that make the virtual worlds less attractive for people?? Apparantly not, if we look at the graph below we see that the number of virtual worlds (abbreviated VW) is increasing exponentially.

Continue reading Virtual Branding