October 1, 2007

Dollars and Cents

Radiohead announced today that not only do they have a new album coming out in ten days that nobody knew about, but that you can decide how much you want to pay to download it. The band is able to pull off this nifty trick because it's no longer signed with a label, and now releases all its music through its own website. If you go there to pre-order a download of In Rainbows, you name your price, in British pounds, no less. (Incidentally, I hadn't realized until utilizing the site's helpful currency converter that the dollar was doing quite so badly against the pound.)

As others have noted, this seems like rather a big deal, in terms of the future of the music industry and all that. I have been, in my time, an energetic user of, um, certain informal forums in which music can be acquired without payment of money. But there are a number of artists that I will always pay to support, and Radiohead is among them. For that reason, I'm probably not the best test of how this bold experiment will work. For the record, I paid $11 (an awfully stingy-sounding 5 pounds) to pre-order In Rainbows. I'll let you know if it's any good.

P.S: An update from the Village Voice:

"Rather than putting their audience through months of traditional hype-cycle tedium, they've compressed the prerelease anticipation period into a week and a half and made it more intense in the process. They've figured out a way to exploit the devotion of their cult without insulting that devotion. And they've cut themselves loose from a sick, dying, hostile industry by selling direct to the people who want to hear them. So far, it's working; the In Rainbows website is taking forever to load because too many people are clambering over each other to give this band their money."