DRM-free music: what of new bands?

NIN's 'Ghosts I-IV' took £380,000 in just two days after it was released online

Hugely successful rock behemoths such as Radiohead, REM,

Nine Inch Nails


The Charlatans

can afford to experiment with a bit of creative marketing, offering albums to fans to freely download for limited periods, or at a ‘pay what you feel fair’ rate. But what of new bands touting largely unknown and un-copyrighted material?

Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Radiohead's Thom Yorke recently argued over ‘who has the best digital music marketing strategy’, while, REM's new album (the remarkably back-on-form) Accelerate is currently streaming in full via iLike prior to its retail release.

TechRadar spoke with Joe Wilson, former member of the band Sneaker Pimps and a lecturer in popular music at the University of Gloucestershire, to quiz him about how these recent movements relate to the future of new music

Perfume merchandising

Wilson observes that, "Trent Reznor is certainly correct in his claim that Radiohead used downloading as a considered marketing move. The industry is currently struggling to find a model for collecting revenue from recorded music.

"Radiohead’s downloading as promotion, followed by a more conventional [CD] release is really just a reflection that record sales have now become the secondary source of income to the use of music in films/TV/adverts and games, and really that recorded music is an advert for an artists’ spin off t-shirt and perfume merchandise.”

What of new bands?

Wilson feels that claims such as those from Nine Inch Nail’s Reznor are really just a distraction. “The real question is not how these large acts make money, as they already have a fan base to exploit… the real question is what model can come forward that would support new music, as all of these download models rely on exploiting existing copyrighted material, not new music.

“At present, new bands are relying on touring and investing in their own work and this is a much more financially self-sufficient model that does require self-generated income. The label may be dead, but maybe the middle class rock act will survive through the investment of the middle class parent?"

Adam Hartley