The Who: another take on how to sell music online

The rock stalwarts in The Who have come up with their own scheme for selling music in the Internet era.

Fans are invited to join a subscription scheme from November 5th. For a fee of $50.00 per annum, you get an exclusive live CD, access to an online forum, streaming video of concerts “from every Who generation,” and access to the band’s entire back catalog online:

Every Song on Every Album (b-sides too!) … As a Wholigan, you’ll be able to listen online to Who tracks, then add them to your mp3 player, if you like. (This feature will be available in 2008).

We are not told key details like in what sort of quality these media files will be delivered.

Is this a winner? If you consider that Radiohead is asking more than $50.00 for its (currently) internet-only CD and LP package, the Who’s deal is not bad, especially if the downloads are of good quality. It strikes me that some fans will join just for one year, to get the CD and to download songs they do not already own. It is a better deal that David Bowie’s similar arrangement with Bowienet – free double CD and site access for $64.99 , but no videos or back catalog access.

Even so, this kind of arrangement is only going to work for a small niche of diehard fans. It is implausible that music lovers would stump up $50.00 or more per year for every artist they enjoy.

I’m glad though that artists are experimenting with different ideas for distributing their music, and not letting Apple call all the shots.