Not in my (Radio)Head

A link at Scott Andrew’s site (see ‘Walkingbirds‘) led to an article about Radiohead’s new album and those who did (or did not) choose to pay for the digital version of the album.

First, the good stuff. This is an extremely underrated marketing concept:

 When choosing between a pricey option and (potentially) free digital album, most people are going to pick the cheaper of the two. What if there was a middle option, something far cheaper than the deluxe package but of more value than the digital album? Many consumers would opt for the second-cheapest option. More revenue for the band, more satisfaction for consumers.

It’s easy to make the mistake of offering two choices, one absolutely tip-top, with a price to match, and one dirt cheap, that’s, shall we say, lesser in quality? But when you’re marketing a ‘want’, that’s dead wrong.

Most people, when faced with a decision like that, have a ‘default’ setting; the easy choice. And, as you might guess, humans tend to be economical creatures.

Offer a third choice: better quality than the least expensive, less expensive than the tippy-top model. Now, people can reward themselves, showing their discerning taste, without being extravagant. Well, that’s how they’ll rationalize it; in the end, virtually all our decisions are made on emotion and rationalized afterwards, but that’s another story.

It also works if only the middle choice is you; the others can be your competitors, Ms. Top O’TheLine and Mr. Economy Model.

But, farther down, this apparent misconception:

 Are people ready for the kind of lower quality recordings that tend to come from do-it-yourself projects?

Um, ‘ready’ for it? People are clamoring for cheap music, and as far as I’ve been able to tell in my 45 years of listening (I’m not counting the years when I couldn’t speak yet) I’ve come to the conclusion that the average listener couldn’t care less about quality recording, or, in fact, about quality performance. They care about snappy tunes that touch them emotionally, which they can hum later and sing along with after a few listens.

It’s a classic mistake musicians make: garage bands playing clubs will invariably include long blazing guitar solos, at least one drum solo, some fancy bass work—hey, let’s show off our musicianship.

Nobody cares.

Nobody but other musicians, and they’re 1) a smaller demographic than ‘everyone’ and 2) usually in the lower ranges of your economic target (what’s the difference between a guitar player and a medium pizza? The medium pizza can feed a family of four.)

So, if you’re obsessing about quality on your recordings, unless you’re recording exclusively for other musicians, you’re wasting your time. No, I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. Just applying some Voltaire something-or-other about good enough versus perfect.

Oh; and as a web designer, I was apalled to find non-linking text underlined twice. Underlined text is a hyperlink. Emphasize with bold, italics, color, size—but not a semblance of a broken link. Please.

Robert Palmer and Jools

Bit by bit we’ve been catching up on Later with Jools Holland (who is a story in himself.) While Best Beloved was doing other things, I thought I’d have a look at the last time Robert Palmer was on the show. He’d be surrounded by a gaggle of lessers, which made me suspect he’d get a single shot and be off; probably not worth dragging Best Beloved in from what she was doing.

One of the others was Macy Gray. Hearing her voice again, watching her perform I Try, I realized I’d forgotten what an astonishing voice she has.

Somehow I developed an uninformed attitude about Mary Chapin Carpenter at some point in the past. She sang Party Doll from Mick Jagger’s solo album. It melted me.

Palmer performed, not once, but thrice: with choir and band (Stone Cold), with David Grant and Jools doing a vocals and piano version of Lowell George’s Twenty Million Things, and ending the show with the choir doing Pride a capella. Palmer’s vocal control in each performance is perfect; it’s obvious his voice is doing exactly what he intends. As someone who merely carries a tune while wishing I was a real singer, it was glorious watching it done right.

I decided Best Beloved should see it after all. (When Pride snapped to its finish, she stared blankly for a moment, then laughed out loud. It takes work to get a reaction like that from her. Most gratifying.)

Yes Rabin Talk

Five years ago my oldest son and I worked together. During our hour-long commute to and from work every day, we were constantly looking for new music to share. I just rediscovered one of our prizes yesterday.

Both big fans of Yes, we heard Open Your Eyes and Talk the same day. Somehow, I confuse the names in my mind because I absorbed them over the same short period.

Oldest son prefered Open Your Eyes but I like the dynamics and acoustic leanings of Talk. Except, for the past four years since we’ve lived in separate homes, I’ve continued to confuse the two albums, choosing not to listen to the ‘harder’ album partly because of the music and partly because of the memories.

Yesterday I just grabbed a CD from the pile that doesn’t fit in the cabinet without paying much attention; just wanted something different in the van. And, lo and behold! The album I’d been not listening to for four years was the album I’d been wishing I still owned. D’oh.

Opening with acoustic guitars, layered with eleventy-leven vocal tracks, and apparently engineered with buckets and boatloads of heavy bass and sharp trebles, Talk falls, in my head, into the 90125/Ladder section of the various Yeses (Yesses?) It mixes crunchy with melodic, ploughs through massive driving solos and falls to near silence. One high point is the opening of “State of Play.” A simple sliding chord riff, repeated a few times, before the other instruments thunder in.

Talk is my current state of play.