Radiohead fans pay £2.90 for digital album

When Radiohead invited their fans to pay as much - or as little - as they liked for a digital download of their new album, In Rainbows, it was hailed as the beginning of a new era for the struggling record industry.

When Radiohead invited their fans to pay as much - or as little - as they liked for a digital download of their new album, In Rainbows, it was hailed as the beginning of a new era for the struggling record industry.

So what then, was the ultimate value of the ground-breaking album and its test of the constraints of the digital age? Around £2.90, it would seem.

Research revealed yesterday that a mere 38% of people downloading the album were willing to part with anything at all. Two thirds paid only the 45p charge for handling, according to ComScore, a digital measurement group.

The company said the average amount that less frugal fans were willing to pay was still a paltry $6 (£2.90) - far below the price of a CD or the amount a digital album would cost to download from the Apple iTunes store.

During the first 29 days of October, 1.2 million people worldwide visited the In Rainbows site, with a significant percentage of visitors ultimately downloading the album. The study showed that 38% of global downloaders of the album willingly paid to do so, with the remaining 62% choosing to pay nothing. The percentage downloading for free in the US (60%) is only marginally lower than in the rest of the world (64 %).

The Radiohead "honesty box" experiment has been closely watched by other artists, their record labels and management companies. It was widely seen as the most high-profile attempt yet to restructure the economics of a music industry struggling with the effects of digital piracy. Despite a booming live scene, CD sales are less profitable than ever thanks to increased competition and piracy.

Industry bodies have estimated that worldwide, people download 20 tracks illegally for every digital download they pay for, which may suggest Radiohead has surpassed most other artists in this particular experiment.


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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