Radiohead’s In Rainbow‘s experiment has Wall Street in a tizzy. Two analysts downgraded Warner Music Group last week, leading to a sharp drop in the company’s stock price.
One of the analysts, Richard Greenfield of Pali Research, penned a gloomy report about why he thinks the sector is headed for even greater losses.
"No matter how many people the RIAA sues, no matter how many times music executives point to the growth of digital music, we believe an increasing majority of worldwide consumers simply view recorded music as free," Greenfield wrote.
Proof of this was provided last month by Radiohead fans. The British supergroup offered the digital version of In Rainbows, the band’s latest album, for whatever fans wanted to pay. According to research firm ComScore, which conducted a study of the groundbreaking promotion, 62 percent of those who downloaded the album paid nothing.
To Greenfield, what’s more disturbing is that Radiohead and a growing number of top acts perceive the Internet as an attractive alternative to record labels. Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor has indicated that he plans to distribute his music online. Madonna announced last month that she was leaving Warner Music for Live Nation, a music promotion company.
"The paradigm in the music business has shifted," Madonna said in a statement announcing the switch. "For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited."
Like Greenfield, Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Cohen downgraded Warner Music’s stock from "neutral" to "sell." Both also reduced next year’s earnings estimates for the company.
Following the reports, Warner Music’s stock hit a 52-week low ($8.78) on Friday. The company’s shares, which were trading above $27 a year ago, closed Tuesday at $9.50.