back to article Open Season exposes the real price paid for Radiohead's new album

Forget the entertainment hacks. It takes a bunch of open source pundits to figure out how much people really paid for Radiohead's new album. Well, in actual fact, it takes El Reg's own Andrew Orlowski who disclosed the Radiohead scoop on the latest installment of Open Season. To find out the real price people paid to download …


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  1. Paul Harrison

    What does "break even" mean?

    This whole Radiohead story sounds fishy.

    I take it you have a source, though there isn't even a mention of this.

    You claim they made £2.50 per download as opposed to £3 royalty with EMI. So they have made less per album - but how many have they sold? If 1.2m, that's still more than most bands sell in the same period of time.

    No-one seems to have factored in costs of servers, bandwidth, etc either, let alone how much the songs cost to record.

    Given all this, I still think they've made more than they would have with EMI!! Your pooh-poohing this as essentially a rich band's hobby seems to be more important than weighing up all the factors.

  2. Martin Owens
    Dead Vulture

    I'll be sure

    Not to listen to the whole thing in ert middle of night just in case a mention was in there; ah well the register probably has a 1 mention per bribe policy.

    Anyway I agree about Sun hot footing, they don't seem to quite get some of the aspects of FOSS and yet you get the feeling some of them do (sometimes).

    As for Ubuntu and the Gutsy release, I haven't installed it yet but I hear good things, as well as a number of people popping in the forums to give smooches for resurrection laptops from Vista death. Red Hat is probably going to be the main competition, I can't see any of the other distro's being sold on PCs or getting support from the likes of Adobe; But it's nice there is variation as it keeps ubuntu and red hat honest.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    $6 million

    You think the average price paid was 2.5GBP, i.e. $5.

    1.2 million * $5 (2.5GBP) = $6 million, others estimate it at $10 million (I think it's higher too, these are fans buying not regular punters and I don't think anyone would pay less than 5 units of their own currency).

    "hail to the thief" their last album reportedly sold 300k in the first week including preorders, i.e. $1.8 million, and in total over it's complete sales run sold I think 2,300,000 copies.

    i.e. In total for the full run of their records, that would be $13.8 million if your 3GBP royalty figure is correct .

    But lets look at that 3GBP figure, since I think it's too high.

    I think that on an $11 Amazon album, the retail & distribution margin is 50% leaving $5.5, production say $1, record company, say $2, leaving $2.5 for the band. Even if Amazon discount heavily, we're still unlikely to get $6 for the band.

    So for comparison, we're looking at only $750k for the same period via record royalties and $6 million IN TOTAL ROYALTIES for the full run of the album.

    So I think they made more from the downloads alone, in the initial launch alone, than they made from the entire sales run of their previous album.

    Oh and as for the 160kbps malarky, iTunes regular is only 128kbps (128kbps AAC is equivalent to 160kbps MP3). But if you've bought the download and want a higher quality rip, why not download a copy from p2p at 256kbps when it arrives. You've paid for it after all.

    BTW, it's a great album when you get into it, congrats to RH.

  4. paulc


    A transcript would be nice for the benefit of those who are deaf or are not allowed to download podcasts/mp3 files while at work...

  5. Al

    Stop playing with it, young man!

    Gentlemen, the content was very interesting but please stop fiddling with your microphones and trying to eat them. It is most disconcerting.

    By the way, I only recently worked out that Ashlee Vance is male. I was most disappointed when I found out.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    A transcript would be nice for the benefit of those who are deaf

    Nice? One would think it a legal requirement so as not to discriminate, perhaps?

    Also, I just don't have speakers at work. So pretty please can I have a transcript? Please? Oh go on, I'll be your best freind...

  7. James Sandham
    Thumb Up

    Downloads + purchases...?

    Do any of these figures factor in the £40 ($80!!) physical cd purchase?... I ended up buying BOTH packages - the download (for £2.50) and then the Boxset - so theyve had 42.50 out of my pocket - I am a bit of a fanboi though!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    average price

    I just wanted to ask - how can you work out an average price when its available for nothing?

    e.g What if someone downloads without paying immediately to listen to it - decides its worth £5 and then goes back to pay for it. Does that count as 2 downloads so average price = £2.50?

  9. Alan Donaly
    Thumb Up

    It sounds

    like Andrew knows very little and pulled numbers out of his ass sorry but thats the way he sounds . Other than that good show Ashlee

    I probably will now have to buy your book. Let everyone know if your going to go on Open Season you better have done all your homework and be ready to share because otherwise you just sound stupid.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Cost of recording and cost of bandwidth

    "No-one seems to have factored in costs of servers, bandwidth, etc either, let alone how much the songs cost to record."

    There was a 0.49p extra charge tacked on to the price, which covered the bandwidth and processing and credit card charges. It is not necessary to include it in the calc, since it was added on after you chose your donation amount.

    The band pays the recording costs for their albums, that is true whether they have a record company contract or do it themselves (the record company deducts the recording costs from the bands share of the royalties). So it does not affect the relative Record company vs Direct balance. Either way the band would pay that cost.

    But the cost of recording an album these days has collapsed as more music is electronic and less acoustics, the acoustics of the studio are unimportant and the expensive musical instruments are replaced by a typical Mac. So the recording cost is likely to be minimal anyway.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I bought the book

    Why is it already marked down five dollars it's not such a bad title for being nondescript. The people who are complaining are using the mp3 version the mp3 version sounds like you are swallowing the mic and keeps fading in and out the ogg version sounds like a normal conversation.

  12. Mark

    Royalties rubbish

    Don't know what you guys on the show are talking about - according to most sources, artists make between 8% and 25% of a CDs retail value (even before recoupment of promotion etc starts coming into play)

    so at the VERY worst Radiohead broke even compared ot going with a label and and as one of the posters above says, probably did rather better than that...

  13. Paul Harrison
    Dead Vulture

    Low recording costs?

    Having top producer Nigel Godrich at the helm + using several good ol' fashioned studios + taking nine months to record it = "minimal" recording costs??

    I know that Mr Yorke loves being Pro-Tooled up to the nines, but it's not like this was done in a back bedroom on a laptop!

  14. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Clarification of "break even"

    You're right Paul - Radiohead have made a pot of money by "cutting out the middle man".

    However by choosing to allow people to pay 0p, it's less than the "break even" gross on a physical CD. Feel free to construe this how you wish ;-)

    I understand that Radiohead also got a waiver on paying mechanical copyright royalties on 0p downloads. Without that, they'd be subsidizing the 0p downloaders, and end up well out of pocket.

  15. AnonymousEngineer
    Thumb Up

    Bit Torrent

    You wanted to know where Bit Torrent gets its revenue stream from? Several large software distribution networks licensed Bit Torrent technology, the largest being Valve Software's Steam Distribution Network.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Andrew

    You still haven't mentioned anything about where you got the 2.50 figure? Do you have a source? Is the sample bigger than 20 friends? Or 50? How did you ensure it was random? Due to the number of downloads, unless you have some inside information (which I doubt they would actually release), I cannot see at all how you can make an assumption about how much has been downloaded. Of course, that would damage your endless and inexplicable quest to save the recording industry giants from the public paying less.

    Of course, by choosing to allow people to pay 0p it's less likely that they would break even, but the average from probably a bigger survey than yours, and across a wider range of people, is £8, that means the majority of people spent somewhere in that region. We paid 12 quid for it, so that doesn't surprise me at all. Tack on the £40 physical copy and I don't see how they could lose..

    Also, I still am unsure where the 3GBP comes from, most estimates I've seen place it about $2-$4 a sale, nowhere near your magical £3.

    The record industry was formed to serve a purpose, like any other company. That purpose was to sell records to people after the rise of the gramaphone. With the advent of the internet, there's no real reason for them anymore, unless they're going to subsidise new bands - but, of course, they don't. With a decent manager you can make enough of a name for yourself through downloads to sell-out gigs, and to make a profit of some kind. Radiohead proves it once, Arctic Monkeys prove it twice.

    The thing is, you're mostly a pretty intelligent, fair, and interesting journalist, which is why I can't understand why you have to lash out at ideas like this with unsubstantiated figures and emotive bollocks.

  17. William Dods


    I'm impressed that James went to the trouble of buying the discbox and the download. However maybe he and anyone else considering that option should realise that a 'free' download is included in the discbox package,

  18. Ben Norris


    How can you even work out the average price? Everyone I know who paid to download it downloaded it for nothing first to see if it was any good. How do you know how many of those downloads were individual users?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I tried to pay

    I tried to pay £5 for an album that I hadnt heard just because I wanted to support this 'new'* way of selling records ... however it crashed on me, when I tried to get it for free it worked .. go figure!

    * - please see ... letting users choose how much to pay for an album isnt exactly new!

  20. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Reject all facts that contradict your ideas / fantasies

    Reports so far base their estimate on two sources: an opinion poll of 300 punters, and a self-selecting and voluntary web-based survey. Who would have thought that people lie to opinion pollsters to make themselves look more virtuous?

    I'm quite shocked!

    "unsubstantiated figures and emotive bollocks"

    In other words, you don't like the facts, so you reject the evidence. Cool!

    Since you can't make up your mind whether it's £2.50 or a "magical" £3, I suggest taking a chill pill and having a think.

    (You can of course, choose to believe what you want to believe. There _is_ a Santa Claus and the earth is flat, for example.)

  21. Parax


    How many users tried for free before paying? how does this price reflect on downloads by IP? even that is not a true reflection, I know a couple of people who have redownloaded from work because they paid already from home. I think it has been well recieved.

    It would be worthwhile eputting a survey on the for free's, have you downloaded before and paid? or do you intend to pay if you download again?

  22. Paul

    Re: Reject all facts that contradict your ideas / fantasies

    Sorry Andrew, you seem to be describing yourself here.

    Where does your £3 royalty figure come from? Why can't you give a straight answer?

    Perhaps you made the unfounded assumptions that all CDs sell at £12 and Radiohead got a 25% royalty?

  23. Brad Hutchings
    Thumb Up

    The day of reckoning...

    The day of reckoning will be when Radiohead release their next CD. If they do it this way the next time, it was worth the effort. If instead, they end up signing another CD contract with a label, we'll know this was just a negotiating ploy. But there is another possibility that even the great Andrew hasn't recognized yet. Maybe their business plan is to sell support contracts.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    53 1/2 minutes?

    Are you guys being paid by the minute? Why else the 3 minutes of music at the end...

  25. zeke

    Vanity licenses?

    Do people at the OSI ever bother discussing the proliferation of licenses?

    Does the OSI ever say no?

    The problem is you podcast guys polish each others knobs so much that no one seems to want to ask hard questions of each other when inane stuff comes out of someones mouth.

    You know, if Im going to force myself to decode british people when they talk tech, I might as well listen to Lugradio because at least they will call each other out and when they do so I get to learn expressions I will never ever use like Bollocks and wankers.

    Seems I've read enough people have been talking over the years about the huge amount of licenses that someone at the OSI would have freaking noticed this/

    Guys like Matt are the other extreme of ****** like ESR, paralyzed by their fear of doing the wrong thing that they let everything through. You Sgt. Schultz!

    No, you dont stop Microsoft from playing by the rules just because they are Microsoft (Im old enough to remember when IBM was the evil empire, so I can deal with Redmond taking part in an FLOSS project that is GPLed IF they follow the rules). You stop them if they are doing the exact thing you allowe them to do; add nothing to the variety of the license pool

    That whole part of about how those licenses arent ever used by others and often not by the companies was nauseating because the OSI thumb twiddlers have been immobile.

    Then again, I dont know anyone who really gives a rat's arse about the OSI.

    You can call the menu at Pizza Hut an open source license for all I care, all I care about when I join a FLOSS project is that my work benefits and can be improved by others.

    And as a “Non-Compensated Individual Hobbyist Developer”, I can tell you that I trust many open source proponents as much as I trust Microsoft (speaking of which, when is our buddy ESR going to have the balls to come out and tell us how it feels to be in bed with Microsoft. Linspire/Freespire/potato/potatoe. Interesting how the coward never commented on the extortion scheme).

    Just because we have a common methodology, it doesnt make you more trustworthy. There are as many ****heads in open source as in the proprietary world.


  26. zeke
    Thumb Up

    Oh, btw, I did like the show!

    I forgot to mention that for a first time listener, overall this was an excellent show.

    I was bringing my kid to judo and stopped by work to get my iRiver player to have something to listen to while waiting there. Everyone's RSS feeds end up on our secondary server at work so lots of us listen to shows others recommend. Im not sure who at work found your show but the most DLed podcasts here was yours and the Samba & FSFe guys talking about the Microsoft case, what Sun's word is worth, and so on. So those were the two I took with me.

    Like the podcast name.

    i Googled 'open season podcast' and the first choice is the iTunes store.

    i Yahooed (nah, it doesnt have the same ring to it) the same words and the first choice is the link:

    Shouldnt you be pushing traffic to your website if the Register is selling ads or should I changed my Firefox seach to Yahoo now? (yes, I know that since DVD Jon you can run iTunes on Linux. No thanks.)

    Have to say that the topics are right on the money and 'très au courant'.

    I cant tell the people apart yet, some of the voices arent 'radio friendly' and everyone seems like they took two valiums before the show but still I will come back because it covered many of the FLOSS stories I cared hearing about, with some witty humour with a light hint of snarky.

    The web page is bland like german sauerkraut. (once you've had the hungarian, serbian, romanian ones sauted in paprika, the german one feels like eating sea algae but I digress, so close to my midnight snack)

    Visually, its so-o-o-o.... open source. Do something about it.

    The kids wanted to go with their friends to watch an big judo competition so i got roped into driving and got to hear the show again in the car with 5 first graders. There is a backhanded compliment there somewhere but I have to say I enjoyd the O'Hypey segment even more the second time around.

    I just finished DLing episode 4 and the title and description of a 'batshit crazy mouse' sound very Enquirer appealing.



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