As noted by Digital Audio Insider, lots of economists seem to think that what Radiohead is doing is analogous to working for tips; Bob Lefsetz thinks so too. Folks, let me ask you something: When you last went out to dinner, did your waiter or waitress ask for your name, email address, postal address, telephone numbers, and for permission to contact you with information about other services they could provide to you? And will they use this information to create a customer database to do targeted direct marketing to you and all the other people they’ve served, using the amounts of your tips to tailor their marketing appropriately? I’m guessing that they didn’t and they won’t.

Put simply, Radiohead is making the following offer: We will provide you a digital album at a price that you choose, and in return you will help us to more effectively sell you something else at a price that we choose. Whatever this is, I don’t think it’s asking for tips. So could we kill this analogy please?

James - 2007-10-05 11:58

Hmmm, interesting concept that is being used more of a loss leader than anything. Funny thing is how much bad info they will get in this campaign with throwaway email addresses, disposable telephone numbers and addresses for the local landfill. Then again, like any marketing campaign, the conversion numbers are razor thin. But, yeah, tips? No, not really.

Frank Hecker - 2007-10-05 12:50

Re bad info: First, we don’t know how much bad info people will really submit. It’s possible that people interested in this offer will be less motivated to provide bogus info than one might think. But in any case bad info is not really a problem if it can be easily detected and scrubbed. As I noted in my original post, people using throwaway email addresses will cause bounces at some point in the future and can be purged, while bogus postal addresses can be detected (at least in theory) when doing credit card processing. If you deliberately provide bogus information then you are not a good candidate for up-selling, and Radiohead would want to know that as soon as possible; bogus information can thus be viewed as a signal of prospect interest, just like the chosen price.

Katie ( - 2007-10-06 15:01

I really, really doubt this is the reason Radiohead is doing this. If you don’t want to give any credit card info, you don’t have to. If you just want the album, put in 0.00 and you’re done. This isn’t some kind of massive conspiracy on Radiohead’s part to make some kind of giant marketing list.

Frank Hecker - 2007-10-06 21:13

Katie: Even someone who pays nothing has to provide a working email address, and I doubt everyone who does so is going to use a throwaway address. So at a minimum Radiohead comes out ahead of where they’d be if people picked up the album via P2P: they have at least some opportunity to do follow-up marketing. And note that providing permission for follow-up marketing is *not* optional; you can’t check out until you accept the terms of service. As to the “conspiracy theory”, I’m not claiming that Radiohead’s doing anything nefarious. But if they truly wanted to give the album away with no strings attached then they could have just put the MP3 files on the net for unrestricted download, and then provided a separate option to allow users to pay something if they wished. (This is the real “tip jar” option, as noted by Digital Audio Insider.)