I’ve been a fan of the band Radiohead since discovering their 1997 release OK Computer. Their music treads territory well off the beaten path. And while I don’t like all their music, I admire their spirit.
Now the band has done it again, but this time upending the music business. The band has bypassed not only the big record labels but even iTunes. Their latest release — In Rainbows — is available for download with a “name your own price” model. You can download it for free, or pay $10 or even $100 for the album. Pay what you want.
Of course Radiohead isn’t the first band to do this. But they are the first commercially successful band to do so, and may be paving the way for others.
This democratization is made possible by the cheap distribution afforded by the Internet. What will be interesting to see is how many people pay, and how much. Normally artists make a small portion of the actual sale price of a CD. In this model, the hard costs of distribution are minimal, so in theory the artist could end up with the largest portion of whatever revenue is generated. Will Radiohead fans put their money where their mouth is? Stay tuned.
For now, I’m off to try to download In Rainbows (the site has been slow and unresponsive as of this writing; no big suprise). And no, I won’t be paying initially, but if I like it, I’ll gladly return and send a few quid to the guys in the band.
Quick Update:I managed to download the release without too much trouble and just completed my first listen. In Rainbows still doesn’t equal OK Computer or Thom Yorke’s solo effot, Black Swan. Maybe it will grow on me.