Byrne/Eno succeed in cutting out the middleman

Ian Rogers, whose digital music company Topspin was behind the latest Byrne/Eno album, recently revealed some numbers showing that cutting out the middleman can put power back in the hands of the artist.

Back in August, I noted that the new David Byrne/Brian Eno album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, was available in its entirety as a free streaming audio file.

They also put up a free download of one track, "Strange Overtones." Later, they offered several packages to purchase--from downloads-only for $8.99 to a deluxe package with a hardbound book, screensaver, and extra songs for $69.99.

Turns out that this release and marketing strategy was driven by Topspin Media, which is led by former Yahoo Music Vice President Ian Rogers.

A couple weeks ago, Rogers spoke at a Grammy-sponsored event in Seattle and, as Idolator reports, the results of the Byrne/Eno experiment have worked out quite well for the artists. After eight weeks of digital-only sales, the duo have already grossed what they would have earned from a typical record company advance for artists of their expected sales profile. And that's without any physical CDs--they don't drop into retail stores until November 30.

As Nine Inch Nails has already shown , the key for established artists is to reach out to their "superfans" and give them opportunities to feel like they're part of an exclusive club. In the case of Byrne/Eno, it really worked: of the people who entered an e-mail address, more than 50 percent opened the subsequent e-mail, and more than 20 percent eventually purchased music through the site.

I'm a David Byrne fan--I've bought most of his solo CDs (which range from OK to great), and have seen him in concert a few times (always outstanding). Sure enough, as soon as I found out that I could buy a physical CD through the site, that's what I did. I guess I'm not a superfan, as I didn't spring for the $70 deluxe package, but I did buy tickets for Byrne's Seattle stop as soon as I heard they were going on sale.


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