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“Streaming Music Is Critically Important” – Radiohead’s Co-Manager Brian Message

At the Nokia Music Connects conference in Mumbai yesterday, Brian Message, co-Manager of Radiohead, whose company ATC Management also manages other artists like Eliza Doolittle and Nick Cave, spoke with Ralph Simon about Social Media, streaming, live streaming, and how Radiohead decided to allow buyers to choose what they wanted to pay for their In Rainbows album in 2007:

What does a manager need to tell the band to do on Social Media?
The key thing is to adhere to the principle of not trying to sell. You try and be authentic. Nick Cave is a 50 year old guy. He’s not going to be someone who tweets. But he takes a lot of pictures. So we put up pictures. It’s very important that we try and push something that is not fake. Most fans out there require that from their artists. Fans want to know the real them and the authentic them. We tell the artists don’t over sell, because people will follow you because of your authenticity.

We’re very very pro technology. We want to work with the likes of Google and Spotify, and see the advantages of technology, and the direct artist-fan model.

There was a structure on the supply side that got between the artist and the fan. The Internet allows you to reach the fan direct. Anybody can be an artist,anybody is a fan, and the dialog between us and the fan is where the business is growing. The forefront of growth is technological change. Breaking through the noise on the Internet is very very difficult.

On hits

We try and build a business without hits. It’s great if a hit comes along.

What made you decide to allow people to pay what you want (which Radiohead did with In Rainbows in 2007)?

Much about what we do is about finding things and doing things that are inspiring. We’re involved in an incredibly creative industry. Radiohead was signed to a record label for 6 albums, which got over. Everyone is sitting there, and wondering what do we do next. In the markets that Radiohead was big in, piracy was big. We liked the idea of direct to fan. the band just decided that once they made the album, that doing something direct would be invigorating and inspiring. Doing something inspiring, you created a newsystem, and inspired the band to new highs. It was like starting again. We’ve found this time and time again: Whenever we introduced new way of doing things, that introduced a whole new dynamic in terms of motivation. It’s not just about churning out commodities.

Some people liked it, some didn’t like it. 62% paid nothing. It’s a part of that blend. A lot people a lot of money. But we sold more tickets, and then we also sold a lot tracks on iTunes. It made people realized the band weren’t another brick in the wall. We had the freedom to go and do something different.

I see now a lot more flexibiilty. With Nick Cave, we use the label services model. The evolution of how people are working is moving in a positive direction.

On Streaming

Streaming is critically important, because it’s a simple way for fans to access music. In my opinion, whether we monetize that streaming to the maximum, I’m not so sure about that. The music is the language of the business that we run. The monetization doesn’t have to be through revenue generation through streaming. Just this year, we did a campaign with one of our artists, with no upfront press and promotion, and we did a trailer, worked with Spotify. In week one, we sold a great deal of records. We used streaming for what it was good at. How we monetize it was a different set of mechanisms. Streaming services for us are an incredibly important part of the market.

On Live

Live is a big and important part of the revenue streams, and it also parts an important part of events. It cuts through the noise on the Internet, for your artists. For Nick Cave, we put some tickets up on sale, and that was a whole marketing and promotion opportunity for us, that allowed us to punch through the Internet. There’s a live album out this week, which helps drive his brand and attract more fans. The Live side of things gets revenue: artists deal with promoters, where artist take 85% with a guaranteed fee, and the promoter takes 15%. (Ed: in the Indian market, it’s probably the other way around)

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