In honor of In Rainbows‘ one-year anniversary, the UK branch of Warner Chappell, which licensed all digital rights for the album, released a few statistics about its “pay-as-you-like” digital release, as well as some notes on the the physical distribution of the album. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Radiohead made money from the record–the band earned more money from just the digital revenues on In Rainbows than they ever made on Hail To The Thief, and sold 100,000 copies* of the $82 discbox and 1.75 million copies of the physical CD on top of that. Sure, more people wound up filesharing the album than paying for it, but still, it’s good news, right? Well, maybe! I felt like there were a few obvious factoids missing from all the hoopla about Thom Yorke making bank.
What was the average price per download? The obvious question, and one that Dyball punted, only saying that “the average price went down after the download moved from uberfans to less committed fans, as expected.” And presumably those fans who are even less committed than the less-committed fans who went to the official site just torrented the thing anyway.
How much did the bandwidth and servers cost? Believe me, I know that space on the Internet is not cheap, and I’d imagine that not breaking the Internet hundreds of thousands of simultaneous downloads would be an endeavor that would cost a lot of money.
How much did the discbox cost, manufacturing-wise? Once I received my package, I realized that the $82 I’d electronically plunked down was absolutely worth it. But the packaging wasn’t so elaborate that Radiohead had a “Blue Monday” situation on its hands, I hope.
What were the costs for PR? Radiohead might have announced the release of the album via its own blog, but those e-mails from Nasty Little Man about how digital copies of the record weren’t being sent out to writers before the Oct. 10 street date, no matter how important their publication or how much they had to cost something. These kinds of costs are rarely factored into discussions of profitability, but can be larger than the recording of the album itself (Although there’s no doubt that the band benefited from quite a bit of free “Holy (Paradigm) Shi(f)t!” publicity.)
Regarding the stat about how In Rainbows made more in download form than Hail to the Thief–is that total revenue earned by that album, or Radiohead’s royalty take-home? Sure, it’s nitpicky, but sing it with me… “The more you knoooow…” (Plus, this will allow other artists dipping their toes into this particular bog to budget their endeavors like this in a more effective way. See? Everybody wins!)
Did In Rainbows make more money than Hail To The Thief because it’s a better album than Hail To The Thief? Just putting it out there.
I’m not begrudging Radiohead their successes, but it does seem that these questions are sort of key to getting the whole picture of what happened a year ago, instead of a canvas that has nothing on it but a big Yorkeian smiley face. Speaking of which, it’s been way too long since we’ve seen this:
* Wasn’t the discbox limited to 100,000 copies? My memory might be faulty.