So Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, will be available as a download at a price specified by anyone downloading it. As their website says, “No really, it’s up to you.” As with programming and some blogs, Radiohead are asking fans to ascribe a value to their output.
Fans who want a physical product, available from the band’s commercial arm WASTE, can buy a box set of goodies for £40 which includes all manner of CDs, vinyl, bonus tracks, artwork and who knows what else. That’s a non-negotiable price, and many Radiohead completists will mind not one jot paying the price asked, even though they won’t receive the product until December, nearly two months after the download becomes available on 10th October.
But it’s really a first for a band of Radiohead’s appeal to essentially give away a download, albeit one with a guilt complex attached to anyone choosing only to pay the 45p administration fee. At a stroke it surveys just how honest music fans are when it comes to consuming music and, unlike The Charlatans’ recently announced album download giveaway through a radio station’s website, it grabs column inches not just in the music press but in business news and main news sections of newspapers, radio and TV.
For sure bands starting out can’t hope to employ this business model – one that might be described as buy before you try – but it certainly stokes the already raging debate on how music making can be funded.