Music Ally has news of some numbers relating to Radiohead’s pioneering “pay whatever you want” experiment with their album In Rainbows. The stats come from a speech given by Jane Dyball, head of business affairs for the band’s music publisher, Warner Chappell, which as Music Ally notes took a substantial risk by allowing the group to offer downloads on that basis. The unfortunate part about her comments, however — which were made in honour of the one-year anniversary of the album’s release — is that they don’t really tell us a heck of a lot that we didn’t already know.
One of the first things Dyball says, according to Music Ally, is that the digital publishing income from In Rainbows “dwarfed all the bandâ€™s previous digital publishing income and made a ‘material difference’ to Warner Chappell UKâ€™s digital income.” That’s not saying much, unfortunately. Before the downloadable album idea came along, Radiohead wasn’t on iTunes and hadn’t done anything much in the way of other digital sales either, so just about anything would have dwarfed all its previous digital publishing income. Making a “material difference” to Warner UK’s digital income means that it was pretty good, but again it doesn’t really tell us much.
The one concrete figure we do get is that there were 3 million CD versions of the album sold, whether through the In Rainbows site (which offered the CD or a special-edition boxed set) or through other digital music outlets. As Music Ally notes, that’s an impressive number given that the band’s previous albums sold in the low hundreds of thousands, and not bad for something Trent Reznor says was really “just a marketing gimmick.” But we get no information from Dyball whatsoever about the average price paid for the downloads, which is pretty critical when it comes to determining whether the experiment would make sense for others.