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What would Gang of Four do?

Comscore_logo ComScore put out a fascinating press release today about sales of Radiohead's In Rainbows, showing that 60% of the people who downloaded the record through the band's name-your-own-price system didn't pay a dime. Those who did pay, though, ponied up $6 on average ($8.05 in the U.S.), which works out to $2.26 per download. While the average per paid download is consistent with other estimates, the percentage of freeloaders is higher, which translates into less money for the band. Still, ComScore estimated that more than 1.2 million people who visited the In Rainbows site last month, and a "significant percentage" of them downloaded the album, which means Radiohead's take will still be considerable. (Thanks to Eliot at Wired's Listening Post for steering readers to the press release.)

Gang_of_four_photo I bring up those stats as background to this post by Dave Allen at the always entertaining Pampelmoose blog. Allen, who also plays bass for Gang of Four, has been thinking aloud on the blog about what the band should do with new recordings.

Now, if you're like me, you're thinking that the band maybe should have stopped with "Songs of the Free." But you also know that Go4 delivered "To Hell With Poverty," which may be the best song ever put to vinyl, and "Entertainment!," easily one of the best albums. So what if more than two decades have passed since then? I'm still a fan.

Anyway, Go4 is no longer beholden to any record company, so it's free to follow Radiohead (and Trent Reznor, Oasis, Jamiroquai, etc. etc.) into the high-margin world of self-distribution. But it doesn't have as big a fan base, nor can it count on receiving the avalanche of free press that Radiohead has enjoyed. So the band's prospects are cloudier and its future not likely to be so rich. That's why it's interesting to follow Allen's thinking as he continues to ponder what course to take.

His post suggests eight steps for the band, including making a free tracks available as MP3s. Although he's not blazing any new trails, he's clearly focused on maximizing the songs' distribution, not their revenue (although the former is related to the latter). And he sees the recording process as a sort of interactive audience-building tool. For example, he says:

01. We need to make a cheap quick recording of no more than 6 songs. The days of spending forever in a studio are over....

03. As we write and record in rehearsal we should post the demos, as rough as they are, to our website and also to Amiestreet so that fans can download them. Comments would be offered and that way we could gauge response. Also word of mouth will get the message far and wide that these demos are available and that we are working on the new recordings - no PR required.

Read all eight, and check out his sketch for what the record label of the future looks like. Think IODA, not the Warner Music Group.

Go4 photo courtesy of Gang of Four's website, which unfortunately did not identify the photographer.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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