I did a talk with a big creative agency yesterday. I took Conor McNicholas, the editor of the NME, in with me to talk about the ever-changing music industry. The parallels with the comms industry are considerable and relatable. Both are witnessing challenges to established business practices and traditional modes of distribution, both are witnessing business models changing beyond recognition (Conor even said he’d talked about it with Trevor Beattie). The NME is busy trying to put itself at the heart of the new models that are emerging. Bands (ones that are right for the NME of-course) are now releasing singles by covermounting them on the NME in order to gain a more widespread distribution with an audience of passionate new music lovers. Conversations with record companies now focus on how the NME can plug into new model "360" deals with the bands that involve management, touring and merchandising.
And the Radiohead thing came up of-course. Interesting that despite the fact that everyone could download it completely for free if they wanted, the average price people are paying is coming in somewhere around £5. No doubt because of all those 30-something blokes (like me) who’ve grown up with Radiohead and feel some kind of kinship and loyalty to them. Paying for their record is our way of saying that we are still part of that gang – you wouldn’t rip off your mates now, would you? I asked Conor whether he thought more bands could do what they’ve done. He doubted it – the music product itself is increasingly being used as a promotional tool for the more lucrative parts of the business (notably touring) but Radiohead have something very few bands have (and many brands would love to have) – the combination of a massive following and killer credibility. Credibility is one of those things that is extremely hard to attain and even harder to retain. But Radiohead have built a huge, enduringly successful business out of just that. So its a case study that many brands would do well to learn from.
P.S. As an aside, in reaction to the BNP’s active recruitment campaigning in schools using white power music, the NME teamed up with "LoveMusicHateRacism" to put together 29 track album featuring amongst others Hard-Fi, Bloc Party, The Enemy, MIA, The View, Lethal Bizzle, Babyshambles and New Young Pony Club (who’ve all given their time and work for free). The first disc is being given away with the current issue but you can download the second disc now here.