Tuesday, October 2, 2007


It looks like Radiohead's new album "In Rainbows" will only be available digitally through their website for the time being, sans any connection to a major record label. Additionally, you can purchase the album from their site for any price of your making, making it essentially like a donation-based product. Radiohead will also release a vinyl/CD version in December for those of us craving something more tangible.

I am not sure if this is a clever marketing ploy in tandem with a label or if this is truly a radical re-shifting of the music industry. I hope it is the later, though time will tell. This sort of thing works well for bands like Radiohead who already have a ravenous cult following. Why would they go through a major label when they can use technology to distribute their music themselves?

Are the record companies shitting bricks? I certainly hope so, especially after the RIAA's insipid pursuit of lawsuits against downloaders in the U.S. Rather than being innovative and finding ways to use the new technology to promote artists, they would rather file huge lawsuits against single moms who download and share music online. The time for change has come.

This Radiohead story, though not fully played out yet, could be a sort of benchmark of things to come. Its not surprising that this would come from a band who themselves are innovative, refreshing and a genuine alternative to the type of crap that the record companies are trying to "protect" from illegal peer to peer file sharing. I mean, is it really a crime sharing 25 year-old songs by Journey over the internet, as per the recent case in Minnesota? Shouldn't they be giving these away?

Anyways, because I am a HUGE music geek I will be following this story closely. I am very curious to see what Radiohead will net from their donation based system. Perhaps this will encourage more people to buy their album, seeing as it will be quite affordable. Also, even if many folks are only paying a dollar for many of their album purchases it may mean a few less peer to peer downloads. At least they are trying something different. The RIAA could learn a few things from this.

NOTE: Check out the RIAA website - there is an Orwellian link so you can report illegal downloading - for those folks who feel a great deal of sympathy for record company monopolies


robyn bright said...

I believe that I would, in fact , overpay an artist rather than underpay in a pwyc system.
Somewhat like how I tend to over- tip wait-staff. Maybe this calls people in to maintain a bit more honour than the usual system.

Matthew R Walker said...

I agree - there was one Radiohead fan who paid 99pounds (the max you can pay on the system) A bit extreme, but a good example nonetheless. The pwyc system seems more respectful of fans, though I am sure Radiohead isn't short on cash. Not sure how this system would work for lesser known bands though.

jmgb said...

My husband in an independent musician and has therefore done extensive research on the underground and digital distributions of music. Labels more often than not strip the artist of the ownership, soul, and freedom of expression...

As such, I have great interest in your post (in addition to the fact that OK Computer is one of my top five!) and will look forward to future posting on what you find!