Known Johnson

October 21, 2007

The reality of pay-per-downloads

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 8:35 pm

Robert Fripp writes in his diary recently about the reality of just how much support the download model will give bands for exclusive material – such as the Radiohead release of In Rainbows two weeks ago. The question I and others have had is, sure, fine, it works for giganto-normous bands that have millions of built-in fans, but what of the smaller acts, or the up-and-coming acts? I steal this from Fripp’s diary to give a bit of reality to the situation, and it’s not all that pretty a picture:

15.12 Awaiting my arrival at DGM HQ this week: a DGM royalty statement. For its artists, DGM now exceeds royalties paid by Virgin / EMI. And, for the first time, there is a download royalty, albeit tiny. In contrast to royalty statements from the past 38 years, a clear & straightforward letter of explanation from David Singleton accompanies the statement…

DGM HQ; 12 Oct 2007

Please find enclosed the royalties for the period ending 30th June 2007.

For the lucky few, these also include the first payments for downloads from the DGMLive website. The average downloads per show remain fairly low (approx 260 across the 84 shows currently available), so most are not close to recouping the cost of the ongoing heroics from Alex, Hugh, Sid and Eric in keeping the site fresh. We have set “recoupment” at 500 downloads per show (which roughly equates to a £750 contribution to costs from the artists), and are paying a 25% royalty on any archive sales above this.

In practice this means that no-one gets rich : DGM will be forever subsidizing King Crimson, as £750 barely covers costs, and there will always be a vast reservoir of unrecouped shows paid for by DGM (75 currently). Equally, the download royalty payments are not yet going to excite many accountants.

But a precedent is set. We now have 17,237 registered users on the site, 24% of whom have bought something, and the number grows daily by 10-15. In addition, DGMLive means that King Crimson continues to have a good presence on the internet, without directly paying for it.

We have also released two downloads, outside of the work of the DGM archive team, (Projekct Six & Fripp/Eno) on which we are paying a 33.75% royalty, which is calculated as being roughly a 50/50 royalty split with the artists based on receipts.

At present, with high costs and relatively low receipts, it is difficult to steer a clear path, but we are working to set an honourable precedent.

In other news, the UK and USA are now releasing parts of the Collectors Club at retail as the “The Collectable King Crimson “, with the first two volumes, coming from the 1973, and 1981 incarnations. Epitaph volumes 3 and 4 have also been re-released as part of this series.

We have also re-worked the Deja VROOOM DVD, a ground-breaking work at the time, which has finally been given more navigable menus.

Now, it doesn’t look terribly negative, does it? I know – they are clearly making some headway selling exclusive live content from the band, and one does have to keep in mind that this content is for a closed-market, ie, fans who already know they want more than what studio material and easily obtainable official live releases can provide. But looking past that, look at the picture it paints – it’s a pretty big struggle for DGM to keep this model working, so how difficult would it be for an unknown band to make it? I’d say nearly impossible. This model, clearly, is not going to work for them.

On the other hand, seeing this, it makes me want to make sure and pick out a download or two every month to show my support. I’m way behind – they have far more than I can possibly keep up with, and each week brings one more. I’m a King Crimson die-hard, so these are things I may not listen to all the time, but over time they take on great importance, and even grow to be favorites (such as the Great Deceiver box.) I’ve certainly spent my money on worse things.

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