The transaction has cleared my bank. Apparently I’ve paid $4.87 for Radiohead’s In Rainbows (plus a $0.04 ATM fee); this has already been recouped by one listen through this morning. This is a happier, more uplifting album than other recent work, and nicely mellowed the anxiety and frazzledness one acquires from riding the MBTA each morning. I’ve already found myself reflexively thinking I should purchase other albums I’ve known but missed getting in this way, but of course cannot since only Radiohead has seen the light on this particularly satisfying sales mechanism. There are a good number of albums I’ve been meaning to buy but am not particularly interested in having any more iTunes DRM. The Amazon MP3 download store is better, but definitely lacking in breadth based on the ten or so searches I’ve made there so far. But even if Amazon worked perfectly, there’s something inherintly satisfying about naming one’s own price. I’ve decreed my personal value of this album at $0.491 per track, so be it.
While this strategy clearly wouldn’t work for everyone, there are slight modifications that could work as pre-order mechanisms for less well known bands. A band could make the market inelastic by limiting supply to 100,000 downloads, and letting the aggregate market bid up the per unit worth. Or reverse that, one could do a Dutch auction of the first units at 50 or 100,000, incrementally lowering the price thereafter for additional units sold.
One possible scenario for web strategy for a touring band hoping to sell 10,000 copies of a new album, at $10 per album for a gross of $100,000. For every 1,000 units presold on their website past that first lot, 1% of the most recent purchase price could be removed from everyone’s order automatically. As the price goes down, orders go up. If sales exceeded expectations by ten-fold, they’d only clear just over $4/album, but they’ve now got $400,000+ rather than $100,000.