Radiohead Effectively Solves Internet Music Theft

Radiohead, taking themselves too seriously.By Giving away their new album for free. That’s right: the latest release from that band with the lead singer that always sounds like he’s crying can be yours for the price of zero dollars (plus all applicable internet service charges). Their new album, IN RAINBOWS/ (or IN RAIN_BOWS or IN/RAINBOWS, depending on which of their pretentious arthouse spellings you want to buy into) will be available from their website starting October 10th on a donation basis. And yes, that donation can be anywhere from one cent to a generous three dollars. Hell, after Hail to the Thief, why not make it three fifty?

The big news here, in case you are terrible at drawing implications, is that Radiohead has effectively cut the record industry out of their record release. If this thing is a success, then we’re going to see a lot more big bands handling their own album releases, without the need for Warner Brothers to set up release galas, product placements and in-store appearances. Where Lars Ulrich attempted to drive back the tide of inevitability, Radiohead
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has embraced it and harnessed it to begin to chip away at a largely unnecessary industry. Of course, not all bands can count on word of mouth sales based on reputation alone, so record industries willing to jam LFO down our throats will probably always be around, if only to push their small stable of first-release artists. But my guess is, most bands who make it big are either going to get on board with downloadable music and user-dictated pricing or be left in the dust. Also, in a sadder implication, look for your local record stores to start going out of business even faster than before, as all physical media is abandoned in favor of code. The only other real downside to this whole deal is that if you pay ten bucks for the album and it turns out to suck, you can’t go back and pay less. What really excites me though is the thought that I can download the album for free, listen to it, then go back and donate what I think it’s worth. Refreshing idea, no? If we’d had technology like this a year ago, I wouldn’t still be regretting the $13.99 I spent on Sam’s Town.
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