Wednesday, October 10

Artists give it away with new distribution models

I'm moving down the form mechanically, name, email, credit card details. It's your standard online order form. Almost. Next to "price" is a blank field and a ? mark. Clicking it reveals a message "It's up to you", and clicking again reiterates, as if it reassure the awestruck digital consumer, "No really. It's up to you."

The work is Radiohead's latest independently released album, "In Rainbows". Following the completion of their 5 deal contract with UK based Parlophone, the band known for innovation is finally matching their model with their music, throwing down the gauntlent to a recording industry which has been defensive and slow.

Pay What you Want isn't giving it away or donation, a model which bloggers and digital service owners frequently use, asking visitors to "consider" giving via PayPal or other means. By stepping punters through standard credit card forms before they get the goods, Radioheads organisation WASTE sets up an expectation and a context of exchange, however little.

Not that giving it away is pointless. The net is full of success stories of artists working the sharing, viral nature of the medium to their advantage. When Bloc Party played their first series of shows in New York, they were amazed to find fans singing along to song that weren't even released - but that had been leaked months before. OK Go are the treadmilling poster boys for this model, rising from obscurity to fame almost overnight through their innovative music video, which has received 23,282,615 views on YouTube.

Free Culture at NYU ran a Creative Commons art show giving rights to viewers, a model which New Zealander Adam Hyde regularly propounds through initiatives like FLOSS Manuals ("free manuals for free software") and streaming radio workshops. Also locally, we're talking with Annie Bradley about a screensaver work which could be distributed at a Window opening. Picking up on the office theme of the piece, visitors could potentially have it downloaded onto a USB key drive or iPod or burnt to a blank CD.

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