Robert Smith of The Cure recently had choice words regarding the "Radiohead" model of user-determined value of media. Just to remind you, Radiohead released an album in 2007, "In Rainbows," that was available for a theoretically "free" download; it was up to the user's discretion how much money they would pay/donate for the music. It was estimated that 62 percent of users downloaded "In Rainbows" without paying one cent, something Radiohead denied. Nevertheless, after three months the band abruptly ended the experiment, returning to a more traditional sales model.
Smith has said that he "disagreed violently" with Radiohead for allowing the fans to only pay as much as they wanted for "In Rainbows."
"You can't allow other people to put a price on what you do, otherwise you don't consider what you do to have any value at all and that's nonsense.
If I put a value on my music and no one's prepared to pay that, then more fool me, but the idea that the value is created by the consumer is an idiot plan, it can't work."
Reaction to Smith's words on the website Stereogum was largely negative, accusing the singer of being out-of-touch, greedy, and irrelevant. Smith then issued this statement, entitled "Free Music For All," on his official site:
"SO IT SEEMS A FEW PROFESSIONAL APOLOGISTS (YOU HAVE TOLOVE THEM!) OUT THERE DISAGREE WITH MY "EVERY ARTIST SHOULD VALUE THEIRART" MUSING
AND THINK ITS OK FOR ART - MUSIC IN PARTICULAR - TO BEMADE AVAILABLE FREE FOR ALL...
NO I AM NOT CONFUSING 'ARTISTIC VALUE' WITH'COMMERCIAL VALUE'
MERELY QUESTIONING THE DUMB ACCEPTANCE OF THE 'FREEART IS THE 'NEW' PARADIGM - THATS JUST THE WAY IT IS' MANTRA
IN THE WAY OF OUR BRIGHT AND BRAVE NEW WIRED WORLD
THESE IDIOT CRITICS HAVE TRIED VERY HARD TO TURN MYGENERAL POINT - A POINT I MADE USING RADIOHEAD'S 'IN RAINBOWS: PAY WHAT YOUWANT' MARKETING RUSE AS IT IS THE MOST WIDELY KNOWN EXAMPLE - INTO A MOCK SHOCKHORROR "HOW DARE ANYONE QUESTION THE FAMOUSLY INDEPENDENT ANDANTI-CAPITALIST RADIOHEAD, THEY SELL MORE 'PRODUCT' THAN THE CURE SO THEIRSTRATEGY OBVIOUSLY 'WORKED' (HUH?!!)... AND ANYWAY, ROBERT SMITH IS WAY TOO OLDTO COMMENT ON CONTEMPORARY CULTURE" MOMENT...
MY POINT IS NEITHER PARTICULARLY NEW NOR ORIGINAL
NOR EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT RADIOHEADS 'IN RAINBOWS'
BUT IT IS I FEEL STILL COMPELLING
ANY FAMOUS ARTIST WITH A HUGE AND DEVOTED FAN BASE(OFTEN ARRIVED AT WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM A WEALTHY AND POWERFUL 'PATRON' ORTWO?) CAN AFFORD TO DO WHAT HE, SHE OR IT WANTS...
INCLUDING GIVING THEIR ART AWAY AS SOME KIND OF 'LOSSLEADER' TO HELP 'BUILD THE BRAND'
ALL WELL AND GOOD...
IF THIS 'ART FOR FREE' IDEA BECOMES THE CULTURAL NORMTHEN HOW DO ARTISTS EARN THEIR LIVING?"
What do you think? Do you think the "pay-what-you-want" model works for music? And obviously, the next question is -- would it work for comic books as a whole?