My Advice to You: Don’t Give Your Music Away (Yet)

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Update: British site Gigwise has reported that Radiohead sold 1.2 million copies of In Rainbows.

I was going to preface this post with a review of Radiohead’s new album In Rainbows, which dropped today, but as of 4:15 PM on October 10th, the site is still down, which probably means that Radiohead’s pay what you want promotion was a success, or that their servers are running Windows 98. Update: Just got my hands on a copy of In Rainbows, and its one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

If you didn’t know, the UK band Radiohead has started offering digital downloads through their website at a “name your own price” rate. You could also purchase a digital discbox for $80, but that won’t ship until early December. This music model, which Rome described as, The End of the Record Industry, is making the traditional music players nervous, especially since such groups as Nine Inch Nails, Oasis, and Jamiroquai have all said that they will emulate Radiohead’s business model.

But before you start dropping all your tracks on the Internet for free, ask yourself this question: Radiohead will make the bulk of its money selling a $80 special edition Discbox with a vinyl copy, a CD, as well as a digital download. Would your fans pay $80 for your sh*t?? Probably not.

Bands like Radiohead take the gamble of asking fans to pay whatever you want for their music because they have benefited from all of the millions of dollars in marketing, world tours, radio play, MTV, and movie licensing deals over the past 20 years, which has established the band as a brand name. I wouldn’t doubt the fact that some dude in Iowa would drop $200 their way because he lost his virginity while “Fake Plastic Trees” was playing in the background.

So what is the aspiring Rapper, R&B singer, wanna be rock star to do? Do what you’ve always been doing. Get on your grind, record, network on MySpace, set up shows, etc, etc. Yes, the record industry will be fundamentally different in the next 5 years, and yes, I know that now there are so many ways for artists to bypass labels completely to record and distribute their own music, but the core aspects of Music business won’t be changing for a while. I’m not saying that trying the Radiohead approach to selling music is a bad idea, but unless you have a fanbase, it doesn’t really matter what you put out.