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John
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Postby John » Wed Nov 07, 2007 1:56 pm

I wonder if they'll release that data, because that's the salient point. If two million people download the record for free and one super-rich fan donates twenty million dollars the experiment is a success, no? There seems to be a growing feeling that the fan who is truly touched by a certain artist has a responsibility to chip in a larger contribution, not only to compensate for the shirkers but to monetarily reflect the impact the music has made on his/her life. This is fairly weird, no? Artists have always struggled to convert people's enjoyment of their work into money, and there's always been an imbalance between what artists give to the world and their monetary compensation.

I've been corresponding with a fellow who's trying to redress the imbalance for smaller indie bands on his site yourplaceinmusicheaven.com. I'm torn about participating. On the one hand, I've had fans tell me that they earn fantastic sums as software hacks and wish they could share the wealth with their favorite bands in some way other than by just buying a tee-shirt. One the other hand, I chose this life with the full knowledge that I would not be paid like a software engineer, and every other musician has done likewise. It feels shabby to put my hat out to collect donations, even though the "tee-shirt and CD" economy doesn't really seem to adequately reflect the large role music plays in our lives.

This whole "pay what you want" business returns the musician to a "pass the hat" status, which is probably a good thing. Musicians have been passing the hat for millennia. Now all we need are bells on our shoes.

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Postby sour29 » Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:50 pm

John wrote:There seems to be a growing feeling that the fan who is truly touched by a certain artist has a responsibility to chip in a larger contribution [...] to monetarily reflect the impact the music has made on his/her life. This is fairly weird, no? Artists have always struggled to convert people's enjoyment of their work into money, and there's always been an imbalance between what artists give to the world and their monetary compensation.

But how is the fan supposed to know how much the music has impacted their life when they're paying for an album they haven't yet heard? Of course, in a theoretical perfect world, they will go back and make the payment later -- but isn't the true emotional impact of an album something that is gauged over a length of time? Months, if not years? When I Pretend To Fall, for example. I copied the album off of a friend. $0. I loved it for a few months. I then bought the CD ($12) four months following. I loved it even more. Years later, I bought the LP ($20). As you can see, time made the album more monetarily valuable to me. Or, at least, the amount I was willing to pay. Before I had heard the album, it was $0. After hearing it, I forked down $12. After listening to it consistently, I forked down $20. But, with these download gimmicks, is it safe to say the avenue for payment for this album will no longer be available in 3 years time? What about 10? 20? So, in theory, if I downloaded Radiohead's album tonight, thought it was ok, and put out $3 for it and more-or-less put it aside, but came back to it in 2012 by chance and fell in love with it -- would I pay for it again? Not likely, but if I wanted to, would I be able to? An interesting thought to ponder.

But I do like the notion behind it. I've always thought that albums should be promoting the live act, and not the other way around. "Like our songs? Come out and see us play them" makes more sense to me than "Like our act? Buy a representation of it." So, in theory, Radiohead will not only make a bundle off the donations from the album, but will then stand to improve concert sales by accessing an audience that is unlikely to otherwise give their record a spin, let alone attend their performances.

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John
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Postby John » Wed Nov 07, 2007 10:13 pm

I remember hearing a statistic back in the 90's about REM, that whatever their new records were selling they still sold a million records a year from their back catalog. Some of those early REM records definitely didn't sell a million records in the year of their release, but they continued to sell for decades both to new fans and to old ones.

Likewise, the early Death Cab records sold fairly modestly at first, but with every new release the old ones went through a sales bump so that now, ten years later, even Something About Airplanes has sold a hefty number of copies.

These long-tail sales, and the sales of multiple copies over the years to dedicated fans, have always been a great revenue stream for bands that aren't touring any more, as well as bands who took a long time to grow. My suspicion is that the fan who continues to upgrade their contribution by buying the vinyl, etc., is going to be the minority. More likely is that even the fans who paid for the record the first time will feel justified in taking it for free every subsequent time, having paid for it once. I never begrudged the many, many times I've purchased Life's Rich Pageant, but if it was free online I'd figure by now I'd paid for it enough times.

Also, big-picture-wise, the question of what music is "worth" really starts to come into play. A ticket to see a Hollywood movie now costs ten dollars, with popcorn and a soda it can be twenty in a heartbeat. That's twenty bucks to see some shitty movie you forget about as soon as you leave the theater. The same twenty bucks will buy you a record you could, potentially, listen to for twenty years. A record which could save your life. When was the last time a movie saved your life?

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Postby sour29 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 5:24 am

John wrote:My suspicion is that the fan who continues to upgrade their contribution by buying the vinyl, etc., is going to be the minority.
Sorry, I think I was a bit unclear -- I meant less in terms of upgrades, but more in terms of how much I will willing to pay for an album. My CD rip was lossless, but I upgraded to the $12 official cd, because it meant that much to me. I bought the vinyl not necessarily because I *needed* a vinyl copy, but because the album became worth more to me than the $12 I'd spent years earlier.

Not that this belittles your point -- I'm probably still very much in the minority. But that was my initial point: if someone initially pays for an album, even if they pay much less than the album is emotionally or developmentally worth to them, they will rarely put any greater financial value on it than what they originally paid. At least until they're ready to sell it. Which is where ticket sales, back catalog, merchandise, etc. becomes the alternative avenue for the fans to financially compensate musicians for their contributions.

And it's interesting to bring forth the music-vs.-movie argument. To play the devil's advocate, when's the last time a Long Winters album cost $60million to produce? Doesn't the average movie length almost double the average album length? Are there not films in your DVD collection you've seen more often than you have listened to some of the CDs in your collection? Thus, the counter-argument could be made that the average album should be financially "worth" (perhaps significantly) less than $10 -- and just like the theatre makes their subsidiary sales through popcorn and drinks, bands make theirs through merchandise and back catalogs.

It's an interesting argument, regardless.

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Postby Liesbeth » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:06 pm

oh man, I could name a number of movies that mean as much to me as my favourite music and have changed my life.

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Postby kyle_s9 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:50 pm

http://www.pastemagazine.com/
You can pay what you want for a year subscription, so do it.
I've been subscribed for a while, it's a great magazine, and i remember John wrote in once, in the letters to the editor.

i like the whole pay what you want thing. I've downloaded albums alot, and not payed, and if i love the album, i almost always go buy it, on vinyl if i can. This way if you're unsure, than you havn't lost much.

I payed nothing for In Rainbows, but i can garuntee when it comes out, i'll go pick it up on vinyl.

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Postby sour29 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 9:47 pm

kyle_s9 wrote:You can pay what you want for a year subscription, so do it.
US only. Boo hoo hoo.

I have never, ever paid for an MP3, for the record.

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Moni
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Postby Moni » Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:12 am

I know a guy who listens to everything from miles Davis to Sigur Ros to György Ligeti, and he said he didn't pay anything for the Radiohead download. That made me wonder how many music geeks, who spend a ton of money on records every year, used this as an opportunity to get some really good music for free legally. Or how many people just didn't pay because it was mp3. What the band was expecting how much people would pay, and so forth... someone could write a thesis on that project (and I'm sure someone will); that would make for an entertaining read.

It'd be interesting to see what would happen if more bands would resort to the "pay what you want for the album"-method, tho I think this probably won't work for proper CDs where a record label is involved and you don't know how much money is really going to the band.

My first reaction to yourplaceinmusicheaven.com was "wow great idea!" (I guess this site just started? I've never heard or read about it before), but quite soon a few reasons came to my mind that might prevent bands from joining. I guess not only some bands but also some audiences could think of that as shabby (as in: "I'd rather give my money to charity; people who "really" need the money)

Another issue would be for me, how do you let people know they can donate money to your band through this site? Making an announcement during/after the show would look weird.

On the other hand, if people who can afford want to share some of their wealth with people who have greatly influenced them in a good way, it'd be cool to provide them with an an opportunity to do so. The question is how can you do that without sounding weird/greedy etc.

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Moni
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Postby Moni » Sun Nov 11, 2007 2:25 am

It looks like that whole study could be bollocks:

Radiohead download "study":

"The results of the study were drawn from data gathered from a few hundred people who are part of comScore's database of 2 million computer users worldwide. The firm, which has permission to monitor the computer users' online behavior, did not provide a margin of error for the study's results.
Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 29, about 1.2 million people visited the Web site the band set up for fans to download the album, comScore said Monday. The research firm did not say how many people in its study actually bought the album." (italics mine)

On another forum someone said that Radiohead themselves said the study was wrong and that they haven't released any data so far.

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Postby No You Are » Sun Nov 11, 2007 7:18 am

I would also guess that the actual band (and its previous success) has something to do with it. One might not feel as compelled to pay for a Radiohead album, since they are milligillianaires. However, somebody might feel more inclined to support an indie band that probably needs to pay the rent.

Not saying its right, but just sayin'.

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Postby sour29 » Sun Nov 11, 2007 7:21 am

No You Are wrote:I would also guess that the actual band (and its previous success) has something to do with it. One might not feel as compelled to pay for a Radiohead album, since they are milligillianaires. However, somebody might feel more inclined to support an indie band that probably needs to pay the rent.
For the conclusion to that hypothesis, let's ask Harvey Danger.

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Postby junker347 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:45 pm

this is assuming Aaron ever gets around to getting us the proper figures... man I am curious how that ended up working out.

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Postby sour29 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 10:19 pm

Me, too, actually. I think it may act as a more accurate measurement than Radiohead's foray into digital downloads vs. digital dollars.

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Postby Squid » Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:44 pm

Apparently we are officially desperate for news on this topic: Yorke paid nothing for own album

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has admitted he was among the thousands of people who paid nothing to download the band's latest album.

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Moni
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Postby Moni » Fri Nov 23, 2007 1:18 am

Very desperate. At first I thought you were citing an Onion headline :)

By the way,

I've been corresponding with a fellow who's trying to redress the imbalance for smaller indie bands on his site yourplaceinmusicheaven.com. I'm torn about participating.


... if anyone thinks this is a good idea and wants TLW to be added to this site, you can request them there. Just go to "Donate", type the bandname and then click the button.


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