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How Radiohead Got it Right, and You Can Too

You all know the account. When Radiohead released their new record “In Rainbows” on a pay-what-you-like download basis, there was a lot of resistance from critics. But Radiohead stated “…we believe if your music is great, then people will pay for it.” Selling around 30,000 copies within the first week alone and hitting #1 on iTunes made the album a rapid success. What followed was a flood of ticket sales and the total sell of over 3 million copies of the album, including 100,000 copies of their deluxe edition box set. They instantly became an inspiration to many bands worldwide, who years later are offering the same pay-what-you-like system to their own fans, seeking for the same success.

Musicians at all levels of their music career have been successful following this model, and yet some haven’t. Many people have even criticized this system as only working for bands that already have a large fanbase like Radiohead, discounting the countless stories of smaller artists having similar success. Yes, they may not have sold millions, but they have sold thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, which is much more than most other relatively unknown artists can contend.

So if you follow their lead, you’ll sell a lot too, right?
If you’re following the same model, why wouldn’t it yield the same results?

You could instead follow a entirely separate process, one done by a much less known artist, Adam Singer, who used his album exclusively as a promotional tool through Creative Commons. His album was a hit with over 5,000 downloads and countless shares. Singer was spotlighted on quite a few notable music blogs and internet radio stations, drew tens of thousands of visitors to his web page, approached to write music for videos on youtube, and even had remixes begin to pop up. Following a different release model had a a dramatic effect. He didn’t have a fan-base, he didn’t market his music to anyone. And still, he gained more attention in one week than most musicians attract over the course of several years.

Let’s look again at Radiohead. They put out their 2011 cd in the same manner, and again the critics are coming down hard on them. Later, they released it on Vinyl, and once again got knocked by critics, even though “The King Of Limbs” soon became the #1 Vinyl album of 2011 by an insanely large margin. null But do you see what they overlooked?

When they put all their music on a USB and sold it for 160 USD, the fans couldn’t get enough. Are you catching on yet?

So what system should you replicate?

Pay-what-you-like? Creative Commons? And what about Vinyl? Or USB? There’s one easy answer. Vote “none of the above.” Sure, you can give out just about anything on a pay-what-you-like basis, but if it’s not done the correct way then it will fall flat. Rather than looking at how successful these releases were, let’s take a deeper look into the mindset behind those strategies. Both Radiohead and Adam Singer implemented a completely different models and both had high levels of success. These are two extremes, but share a very similar mindset behind them that brings both artists a lot of success. Don’t simply ask “Which method should we follow?” but “What system will work best for OUR specific fan-base?”

Apple didn’t survey the experts and critics what they thought of an all-in-one machine, MP3 players smaller than the size of a deck of cards, a entirely touchscreen phone, or the ten inch iPad. Napster didn’t ask the “experts” their approval to do digital downloads and streaming music. Netflix also didn’t just follow the industry when they made their mark with mail-order DVD rentals. Each of these businesses and bands have a single thing in common, they each sought out NEW methods of approaching things while everyone around them told them it couldn’t be done. Then awhile later, the same naysayers are scrambling to copy them and hope for the same results–totally missing the point.

Don’t presume you will get the same results just by reproducing what they did. Don’t anticipate the same outcomes because you put out your music as “pay what you like” downloads, Creative Commons, Vinyl, or USB. The most important thing is that you replicate their mindset.

How to make your next album release rock:

We’ve talked sufficiently already about the necessity of developing a professional mindset when it comes to your music. Let’s look at what you can do right now.

1) Understand and describe your intended fanbase. This is important because the better you are able to define your intended fanbase, the simpler it will be for you to predict a cd release model that actually works for them. You can do this by thinking of your most perfect fan. Who are they? What kinds of things do they go crazy for? How do they like to find, consume, and pay for music? Where do they spend time both online and off-line? Know them so well that it will be easy for you to know exactly how to put out your music in a way they can’t refrain from buying.

2) Now take what you wrote about your perfect fan and detail out a cd release process that makes it natural and fun for your fans to discover, consume, and share with friends.

3) Now, put it in action.

Yes, it’s that easy. Radiohead so fully described their ideal fans that they simply used release methods that their fans would appreciate. Even Adam Singer, without much of a following knew specifically who he planned to target. Singer’s fans were exactly like him, so he engaged them with only what he would be looking for…good music that was easy to find, download, share, and use. These 2 artists and the few visionary companies we talked about in this article, anticipated methods their fan-base wanted to be interacted with and did it. Their competition attacked them until it was too late, and then they rushed to shamelessly copy their lead.

The question for you is: “Which method will engage YOUR specific fanbase in the biggest way?

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Author Bio Draven Grey is an artist development specialist & accomplished professional musician who has been where you are. He coaches bands across the world in how to be as successful as their favorite bands. Sign up for more great tips about the music business and a free 6-Day Booster Pack now at rockstarmindset.com.

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