How do you promote sales of a new album in a world where few people buy albums any more? Radiohead broke new ground with ‘In Rainbows’ when they invited fans to pay what they liked for the downloads (on average $4.64 apparently).
U2 launch their latest album ‘No Line on the Horizon’ at a time when over 90 per cent of digital music in the UK is believed to be obtained by via illegal downloading. The veteran Irish rockers may have brought us a step closer to a the time when no-one buys music, they stream it all for free.
U2 has teamed up with Spotify the music player that looks like a cross between iTunes and the original sharing site Napster. On Spotify you can create playlists, listen to recommended music and you don’t own any of it. Users registering or logging in this weekend were presented with a bold banner advertising the availability free to stream online of the new U2 oeuvre.
You can pay a monthly subscription for Spotify or listen free with tracks interspersed with radio style ads. Doubtless U2 have agreed a funding model that sees a return on the promotion they have also accessed a significant online tie-up with all of the accompanying PR buzz. Spotify will do rather well from the PR too. Just to cover all of the bases ‘No Line on the Horizon’ is also available on Vinyl.
It remains to be seen whether the free streaming model will provide artists with anything like the income they had in the the heady hay days of the late 20th century and U2 may not be the best artists to test new ways of appealing to the Gen Y music afficianados. The ‘”wired reading tea drinking music loving innovating green thinking” Tim Difford told me on Twitter that he wouldn’t even listen for free.
Whether this works or not the established truth is now that the money is in live music. On March 9th the band will announce details of a new world tour.