I don’t know what to make of this. On the one hand, I applaud Radiohead for striking out on their own, doing things their own way – the state of the music industry pretty much assures successful bands that they’ll have even more success on their own, without the greedy fingers of industry reaching into their pockets at every turn. However, I’m not sure how I feel about how they’ve chosen to go about releasing their latest album, In Rainbows. You see, they’re doing something unique, from what I can tell. The album will be available to download October 9. You just pull up the band’s In Rainbows site, and choose one of two options.
The first option is simple – a download, and that’s all. There’s a twist, and this is an interesting one: you can choose to pay whatever you feel like paying. That’s right – if having the new Radiohead feels like it’s worth $10 to you, go for it (in whatever that equates to in British pounds, that is.) If it’s worth 50 cents, go for it. If it’s not worth anything, you’re still good. All you have to pay is a small credit card fee (something like less than a dollar, from what I read.) And then you download your DRM-free mp3s. That’s right – not only do you choose what to pay, you also get music that you can choose to do with as you please, no hobbling from some ridiculous rights-management scheme that tells you where you can play it and what you can do with the files.
The other option, however, is where things get complicated. The band will be pressing up CDs of the new album, and they’ll be included with two vinyl slabs of the music as well as an additional disc of music from the sessions for the album, all packaged in a special box with artwork and the like. AND you still get a download next week. That’s right – not only do you get analog and digital formats on actual media, you get those files just like the “choose whatever price” buyers do. The catch? This option costs over $80 (40 British pounds.) Ouch. “Hail to the Thief” indeed.
What remains to be seen is if the band will find a route through which to later offer the album – and maybe that bonus disc of material as well. Oh, and it also remains to be seen if this venture is a complete financial disaster for the band. Who but the most die-hard collectors will be buying that box? Who but the most honest of listeners will pay more than a few dollars for the download, knowing there may be something in the form of a hardcopy at a later date? We have all been burned by “deluxe editions” only months after the original version came out, after all . . .