Can pay-what-you-want downloads save the music industry?

Can-pay-what-you-want-downloads-save-the-music-industry

Free of their contract with EMI, Radiohead released their album In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-want download in the fall of 2007. While the majority of fans decided to download the album for free, In Rainbows generated more money for the band than their previous album with their record label, Hail To The Thief. And that was even before it was eventually released as a physical album and subsequently taken offline as a pay-what-you-want download.

Although Radiohead wasn’t the first pioneer of pay-what-you-want downloads, the prominent band did seem to spur a movement for musicians all over the globe to attempt to make money based almost solely on the generosity of their listeners. Apparently, the success wasn’t enough for Radiohead, however, as the band decided to release their follow-up album, The King of Limbs, for a set price of $9 for the MP3 download.

With digital sales surpassing physical album purchases for the first time ever in 2011, and the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas wrapping up, Digital Trends reached out to some forward-thinking music professionals about where the industry is headed in 2012. Can pay-what-you-want downloads save an industry many say is failing due to out-of-date business practices?

Not always a yellow brick road

The pay-what-you-want model as proven to be an excellent way to raise money for charity through the gaming project Humble Bundle, and the idea of people deciding how much to contribute to a product is becoming something so trendy even a Williamsburg restaurant has tried adopting the system. But, as Radiohead’s shift in distribution may have signaled, banking on the goodwill of consumers may not be a sustainable practice for artists or record labels.

Several young entrepreneurs have attempted to provide independent music directly to fans, however, not all have survived. Patronism, for example, launched last year to some acclaim, providing a subscription based model where fans connect through an online portal with their favorite band, paying on average $10 a month for exclusive material. Currently though, the service is still in beta and hosts a seemingly small base of musicians who are relatively unknown.

Daytrotter

The music aficionado website Daytrotter recently changed from a free-download system that was supported by advertisements, to a private and ad-free subscription model starting at $2 per month. According to a statement on the organization’s website, the costs of recording and distributing music for free could not be sustained by hosting ads. Whether or not the new subscription model will be enough for Daytrotter to continue recording and releasing music remains to be seen. Site founder Sean Moeller declined to talk about the financial success or failure of the new subscription program when reached for comment.

San-Francisco-based pay-what-you-want music service Kroogi (translated means “circles”) boasts over five hundred artists under its creative umbrella with a focus in Russia, and is looking to expand into South America and beyond. But according to the site’s founder Miro Sarbaev, only 20 percent of the music downloaded on the site is paid for by customers, and the average given to an album is only $3. Plus, 15 percent of any payments made to an artist through the website go to Kroogi for hosting the service.

Sarbaev says his startup hasn’t broke even yet, but that the company is “getting there,” and notes that it’s the musicians who make the extra effort to engage with listeners who see higher contributions.

Home Theater

Spotify adds artist-blocking feature, despite its denials

Though it continues to claim you can't do it, there is plenty of evidence that Spotify added an artist-blocking feature to its platform, making it easy for users to never hear a specific musician or band.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Music

The best new music this week: James Blake, Maggie Rogers, and more

Looking for the best new music? Each week, we find the most compelling new releases just for you. This week: James Blake, Maggie Rogers, Deerhunter, Juliana Hatfield, Pedro The Lion, Sharon Van Etten, Steve Gunn, and Toro y Moi.
Computing

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.
Music

Tidal faces legal jeopardy over fake stream numbers accusation

In another challenging chapter for music subscription service Tidal, Norwegian authorities have begun a formal investigation into charges that the company faked millions of streams for artists such as Kanye West and Beyoncé.
Home Theater

Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable spreads analog joy throughout your home

It can be tough to listen to your favorite analog tunes anywhere besides the room where your turntable is located. With its MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable, Yamaha allows you to stream your tunes throughout your home.
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.
Apple

Apple may be developing a new iPod Touch to woo younger users

Apple may be developing its first new iPod touch model since 2015 as it aims to capture younger users who are not yet ready for their own smartphone, and expand its overall listening base in the future.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Music

Jam out in hi-fi style with the 25 best playlists on Spotify

Music is the world's most potent drug, and the best playlists on Spotify will make you catch feelings. We've scoured the service for its top collections, and brought them together in one place -- for you.
Music

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.
Music

Fender’s Acoustasonic guitar uses advanced tech to become a tonal chameleon

From shredding distortion to a soft and supple fingerstyle, Fender's latest guitar innovation is an acoustic/electric hybrid that allows guitar players to dial in the widest possible range of tones.
Smart Home

Sing with Freddie Mercury with the ‘Ay-Oh with Bohemian Rhapsody’ Alexa skill

20th Century Fox announced a new Alexa Skill for Freddie Mercury fans. To celebrate the digital release of Bohemian Rhapsody and a National Day of "Ay-Oh," fans can download the Ay-Oh with Bohemian Rhapsody Skill.
1 of 2