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.