How to quadruple the price of an album and get away with it

Quaristice artwork If there is a musical act I like more than Radiohead, it is Autechre. The release of Autechre’s new album, Quaristice, bears some resemblance to Radiohead’s attention-grabbing In Rainbows release. It also bears a lot of the hallmarks of my predictions / observations about the apparent future of the music industry which I wrote about earlier this month.

I has already been known for a while that a new Autechre album was due out on 3 March. But on Tuesday it was announced via an email to subscribers to the Warp Records newsletter that Quaristice was available to buy as a digital download immediately.

This is the second time in as many months that Warp has sprung a surprise. They did it last month by releasing Clark’s Throttle Promoter EP with no prior warning, along with the announcement of a new album, Turning Dragon, just a month away. It is a pleasant change given that Warp seem to like announcing an album several months in advance and switch the publicity machine into overdrive (and the recorded music industry wonders why people just illegally download albums instead of waiting).

Of course, I had to buy it straight away. Unfortunately, Bleep was struggling to cope with demand. After spending far too long trying to get the zipped download to work, I eventually resorted to laboriously downloading the album track by track. The whole process took over three hours. Ironically, it would have been a lot quicker and easier — not to mention cheaper — to just illegally download it.

On top of the immediate digital release, a limited edition version of Quaristice was announced. This is interesting because Autechre have never had a ‘limited edition’ version of one of their albums released alongside a standard edition. I don’t know if that was because Autechre didn’t like the idea or if Warp thought it wouldn’t be worth it. But whatever, this move seems to back up the observations I made a few weeks ago — the limited edition is becoming much more important for the recorded music industry.

The limited edition Quaristice sounds swish. It comes with a second CD of alternative versions of tracks from the album housed in a rather luxurious-sounding package:

The double CD set comes in a Designers Republic styled, photo-etched, 0.4mm steel slipcase with foil blocked inner gatefold wallet.

It comes at an equally luxurious price — £24.99. And postage is £5! Limited to 1,000 copies, it sold out really quickly, so I feel lucky that I didn’t hang around like I often do. I speculate that they could have easily sold 5,000.

The MP3s cost £6.99 (if I had opted to go for the lossless Flac files (which I didn’t because they are not iPod-compatible), it would have cost £8.99). As such, I have spent £36.98 on Quaristice — almost as much as the £40 Radiohead ‘discbox’.

Before In Rainbows I had never spent anything like £40 on an album. Now I have done it twice in the space of a few months. What a sucker. Who said it was impossible to make money from recorded music any more?

All-in-all, it is a very clever move by Warp. I have bought every Autechre album that’s ever been released for around a tenner. With a couple of sly moves they have managed to just about quadruple that. And judging from the trouble I had downloading it and the fact that the limited edition sold out so quickly, it has happened at least a thousand times over. The accountants at Warp must be happy today.

(Needless to say, I will be reviewing Quaristice when I get the chance.)

6 comments

  1. Probably one of the most sincere posts about digital music out there. Real fans like you deserve better treatment from the music industry and some groups, such as Radiohead, are starting to view this. Just imagine that you could pay 10€/month for a premium access through webcam to their recording studio or to a chat room were they would show up once in a while.
    Music is more alive than ever, music industry is a walking zombie.

  2. […] Pinksy encouraged me to write a track-by-track review, but I will not do that in case I make an arse of myself like that other guy. That, and because I can’t think of enough things to say about each track. And I know nothing about electronic music production so I really would be making an arse of myself. […]

  3. […] I should point out that if you like any of the tunes on my Muxtape, I think you should buy the album (the ‘Buy from Amazon’ link on Muxtape is a new addition today — a handy hint). I bought all of these. In the case of John Cage, I bought four different performances of it. In the case of Autechre, I bought the album twice. […]