Author Topic: Digital music distribution with no record label.  (Read 1192 times)

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Digital music distribution with no record label.
« on: January 03, 2008, 06:30:00 PM »
Move or retitle this thread as you see fit but I couldn't think of anywhere else to put it and with the way artists like Radiohead and Trent Reznor are going about self releasing their albums onto the internet, I felt it might be a good time to start a topic with some information that was just posted on Trents blog.

We're all curious about the numbers In Rainbows did, but Trent Reznor released his own info about the self released pay if you want Saul Williams record and I found it interesting.

It's a strange time to be an artist in the recording business. It's pretty easy to see what NOT to do these days, but less obvious to know what's right. As I find myself free from the bloated bureaucracy of major labels, finally able to do whatever I want... well, what is that? What is the "right" way to release records, treat your music and your audience with respect and attempt to make a living as well? I have a number of musician friends who are either in a similar situation or feel they soon will be, and it's a real source of anxiety and uncertainty.
I'd like to share my experience releasing Saul Williams' "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust" and what I've learned from the process. Perhaps by revealing of all our data - our "dirty laundry" - we can contribute to a better solution.

A quick history: Saul makes a great record that I produce. We can't find the right home at a major label. We decide to release it ourselves, digitally. Saul does not have limitless financial resources so we shop around for a company that can fulfill our needs. We choose Musicane because they are competent and are willing to adapt to what we want. The results are here:

We offer the entire record free (as in totally free to the visitor - we pay bandwidth costs) as 192 MP3s, or for $5 you can choose higher fidelity versions and feel good about supporting the artist directly. We offer all major CCs and PayPal as payment options.
Here's what I was thinking: Fans are interested in music as soon as it's available (that's a good thing, remember) and usually that's a leak from the label's manufacturing plants. Offering the record digitally as its first appearance in the marketplace eliminates that problem. I thought if you offered the whole record free at reasonable quality - no strings attached - and offered a hassle free way to show support that clearly goes straight to the artists who made it at an unquestionably low price people would "do the right thing". I know, I know...
Well, now I DO know and you will too.

Saul's previous record was released in 2004 and has sold 33,897 copies.

As of 1/2/08,
154,449 people chose to download Saul's new record.
28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it, meaning:
18.3% chose to pay.

Of those paying,

3220 chose 192kbps MP3
19,764 chose 320kbps MP3
5338 chose FLAC

Keep in mind not one cent was spent on marketing this record. The only marketing was Saul and myself talking as loudly as we could to anybody that would listen.
If 33,897 people went out and bought Saul's last record 3 years ago (when more people bought CDs) and over 150K - five times as many - sought out this new record, that's great - right?
I have to assume the people knowing about this project must either be primarily Saul or NIN fans, as there was very little media coverage outside our direct influence. If that assumption is correct - that most of the people that chose to download Saul's record came from his or my own fan-base - is it good news that less than one in five feel it was worth $5? I'm not sure what I was expecting but that percentage - primarily from fans - seems disheartening.
Add to that: we spent too much (correction, I spent too much) making the record utilizing an A-list team and studio, Musicane fees, an old publishing deal, sample clearance fees, paying to give the record away (bandwidth costs), and nobody's getting rich off this project.

Saul's music in in more people's iPods than ever before and people are interested in him. He'll be touring throughout the year and we will continue to get the word out however we can.

So - if you're an artist looking to utilize this method of distribution, make of these figures what you will and hopefully this info is enlightening.

posted by Trent Reznor at 1:04 PM. 0 Comments  FPRIVATE

I say that's pretty good especially for an obscure artist. Radiohead must have done bigger business assuming people who did pay paid possibly more than $5 a pop. Trent seems disheartened by the plan but should he be? Throw in the studio costs to making the album and they probably barely broke even.

Tough to say. I like this idea of cutting out the record companies and I hope it keeps happening, but the money they are making doesn't seem to be much. Maybe they can recoup it with tours and shows with the added notoriety. Most people wouldn't even have downloaded it if it wasn't free. Who knows?
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Re: Digital music distribution with no record label.
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2008, 06:37:13 PM »
Love, others may follow Radiohead's no-label lead
Source: Reuters

Rock band Radiohead's decision to release its new album "In Rainbows" by itself -- online, without a record label's help and at any price the user chose -- rocked the industry last fall.

Some hailed it as the beginning of the end for record labels. Other dismissed it as merely a publicity stunt. Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher told Reuters the group would follow such a strategy "over my dead body."

But everyone wants to know: Who's next? The following 10 acts represent where the smart money is on such speculation. Let the games begin.


He's already shown a willingness to distribute music outside traditional label structures by releasing new music on his Web site, via his NPG Music Club and by offering his latest album as a covermount with the Daily Mail newspaper in London. Prince is also staging a massive effort to "gain control of the Internet" by suing the Pirate Bay and forcing independent fan clubs to remove images and other content, suggesting perhaps that he wants all eyes on his site in the future.


After a highly publicized departure from label Interscope and Universal Music Group, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor came right out and declared his intention to release the group's next album from its Web site for $5. He also collaborated with Saul Williams on the "Niggy Tardust" release, which was offered online in a Radiohead-like fashion. This one is money in the bank.


The singer penned a rambling stream-of-consciousness post on her MySpace page admitting her fascination with the Radiohead model and said she would consider something similar in the future. Her latest album, provisionally titled "How Dirty Girls Get Clean," was supposed to be released last year but has yet to appear; Love is also not presently signed to a label.


The techno group's new live set, "Alive 2007," appeared on iTunes a week before it did physical formats, so clearly the act is interested in digital releases. Although still signed to Virgin, Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter told Billboard last summer that he's open to experimenting when free to do so. "What we might be interested to do from an artistic point of view might not have the same agenda as a major label for using physical formats," he said. "Personally, we still buy music, but we hardly buy any physical music. We've definitely changed our habits."


The group left Interscope last fall with no small degree of animosity, and is rumored to be considering a digital-only self-release in partnership with indie digital distributor IRIS. The Texas-based outfit is working on a new album, expected in August.


Chuck D is already releasing his own material and that of Public Enemy under his primarily digitally distributed label SLAMjamz. Expanding his love for Internet releases with the pick-your-price angle of Radiohead's move is just the kind of anti-authority rebellion that he and his crew are known for.


The prolific indie rocker has almost complete control over his work through his label Asthmatic Kitty, and has a proven willingness to do things differently. He even gave away full rights to one of his songs as a prize in a Christmas songwriting contest opened up to all fans. At the rate he puts out material, Stevens may easily decide to just push his songs online as soon as they're done rather than wait for a more traditional model.


The Seattle group already sells live recordings directly to fans through a proprietary Web interface, and has a history of eliminating the middleman to make its work more affordable to fans. With a distribution and payment model already set up for the live material, it would be a simple matter for the group to add studio albums as well. Pearl Jam has the freedom to do it, as it is signed to Sony BMG's J label on a per-album basis, as opposed to a long-term deal.


After ending its deal with V2 in 2005, the electronica duo launched an official online store called the Riverrun Project, which focuses on lengthy one-off tracks bundled with digital photos. The group cited the desire to make new music available immediately, rather than wait years for an album release. Underworld is now signed to ATO imprint Side One Recordings but remains free to sell music via Riverrun whenever it chooses, sources say.


Eleven studio albums in, these synth-pop stalwarts arguably no longer need a major label in their corner. The group, which recorded for Sire since 1981, can still fill arenas and land new tracks on DJ playlists without the support of radio.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol

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Re: Digital music distribution with no record label.
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2008, 06:45:52 PM »
I hope this becomes the norm. Nobody knows how financially lucrative it will be though.

Something needs to be done. Clear Channel is ruining music and pop culture. They're making it to where internet radio stations will not be able to transmit and if they do they will have to pay gigantic fee's to the record labels which they can't afford. I don't know about anyone else but I listen to alot of internet radio (Woxy, Santa Fe Indie 101.5)

It would be a shame if the only radio allowed is Clear Channel stations.
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