Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rainbows Redux

The Times Music section devotes its lead story today to a survey of East Village hipsters asked what they'll pay for In Rainbows. It's an interesting question, but the piece almost entirely fails to address how people arrive at their figures.

One guy says he'll give $5 or, weirdly, $8, depending on his next pay check; another will give $5 because Radiohead "already have plenty of money." Beyond this, we get very few justifications.

As I consider what I'm willing to pay, I realize the issues are fairly complex. For instance, doesn't it seem unfair to go with the guy above who values labor based on the economic status of the worker? Should we pay people less just because they're rich? (Shouldn't taxes account for this already?) Or conversely, should we pay less just because we're not?

It's also unclear how the cost of production (equipment, manpower, time, etc.) should factor into our decision. (And why do I suddenly sound like a Marxist?) Should a piece for orchestra go for more than one for solo guitar? Should we pay more for an album that took two years to produce rather than two weeks?

Finally, should we consider quality? If the album is great, as I expect it will be, should we pay top dollar? If it's crap and we only listen a few times, can we justify taking it for free?

Alice, commenters, what are you thinking? How do you handle these questions in other, comparable situations - at pay-what-you-will cultural institutions, say, or when they pass around the hat at a rock show? How does this mesh with your feelings on other issues - taxation, for instance, or the obligations of pharmaceutical companies to the world's poor? What would you do in an ideal world? What will you do in this one?

5 comments:

MCW said...

In true Radiohead form, I might just "take the money and run!" (from Idioteque).

Just kidding. But I do think prices for things are determined by the market, and the market sorts these things out.

Radiohead wouldn't be doing this if they couldn't handle the financial burden or loss of profit. I really think they care about their listeners.

In part, I also think they have some self-interest in this endeavor. A lot of their big albums came out in the 1990's. I think this album's purpose is to introduce themselves to a new generation of listeners. Once the new listeners hear Radiohead, they will be inclined to buy their older albums.

This album is all about expanding their current market (which is already huge).

kw said...

how can someone "expect" that something like a forthcoming album will be great?

alice said...

you don't sounds like enough of a marxist to me. YES it matters how much the artist makes and YES it matters how much you make. jesus. didn't you read the communist manifesto?

jake said...

Karen, while an album titled "In Rainbows" admittedly does not bode well, you're probably unaware a) they're always this bad (I give you "Pablo Honey," " Amnesiac," and "Hail to the Thief") b) the boys don't put out bad albums. Or maybe just one - their first. Since then, they've killed me without exception.

Alice, as usual, I am moved and persuaded by your deft arguments, ingenious use of CAPS, and vain invocation of Christ our Lord. Thank you. I'll have plenty to chew on this weekend.

alice said...

you just called your mom karen. ha.