Hail to Thief….any cop? and how would it fare in the i-Tunes store?

Radiohead band members have commented further about how they wouldn’t have minded if the tracks that leaked from ‘Hail to Thief’ onto the Internet had been final copies rather than rough mixes. Well, to be honest (and I have said this before) I think it is all part of a sophisticated multi-pronged digital marketing strategy that relies upon well placed quotes and stories complaining about piracy as much as it does for traditional marketing techniques.

But all that aside, is the album any cop? Well I’ve been listening to it every day for the last couple of weeks. It’s definitely a very good album, not their best, but very good and superior to most of what is out there at the moment . It’s definitely a ‘challenging’ listen and it takes a good few plays before you can really get a feel for what the album is all about. And in that context it is definitely a sum of its’ parts: it needs to be appreciated as a whole, rather than with lots of stand out tracks (although there are a good few of those as well).

All of which has obvious implications for how it would translate to the Internet. If kids decide to skip to the few key tracks on Kazaa they’ll miss out on what the album is about. The same would apply if some one were to be able to buy individual tracks from the Apple I-Tunes store. The solution? Well on the one hand, file sharers will simply end up the poorer for not hearing the complete album but from the legitimate perspective, music fans really need to be further motivated to buy complete albums.

Leaked figures suggest that a nearly half of i-Tunes store buyers are buying complete albums. That number could be a lot higher if the pricing structure was weighted to further incentivise full album purchases. This is something that I argued in my latest online music report: that there needs to be a creative approach to price bundling that makes it more appealing to buy albums rather than individual tracks. Otherwise, a la carte stores could end up eroding the market for albums such as Hail to Thief and cause a backwards shift towards singles sales.

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