Radiohead album: Half-full or half-empty?

In one of the first comprehensive looks at who paid what for Radiohead’s recent In Rainbows launch, comScore says that more than 1.2 million people used the download site in the month of October, and only 38 per cent of them paid anything for the music. In the United States, according to the traffic measuring company, about 40 per cent of the people who downloaded the album paid for it, and they paid an average of $8 (on a global basis, the average was $4).

There are a couple of ways to look at this. One is skeptically — after all, there were reports that Radiohead had 1.2 million downloads in the first two days, so it’s hard to imagine that it didn’t get substantially more in the next 20 days. As with most traffic-measuring firms, comScore also has a certain methodology that may or may be entirely accurate. It’s not clear what the survey was based on or how the firm got the numbers it is using (but like Ethan Kaplan, I think there are some big holes).

Another way to look at it, however, is that almost 40 per cent of people paid for something they could have had for nothing — and in the U.S., they paid the same amount as it would have cost to buy the album the regular way. That may not be great, but it’s not bad. On an unrelated note, the comScore press release contains a quote from a somewhat unusual music expert: Union Square VC and music fan Fred Wilson, who has more here.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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