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Print 22 comment(s) - last by Andrew Campbel.. on Oct 10 at 2:15 AM

Radiohead to give away free download of new album

Major political alt-rockers Radiohead have a new album that is brewing a storm of interest due to its unique distribution model.  The band will distribute the new album In Rainbows independent of a major record label from their webpage.  

Fans have two options for acquiring the new album.  The first is a discbox set containing CDs, heavyweight 12” vinyls, supplementary artwork, extra tracks and booklets.  This package costs 40 pounds, about $81.75 U.S., includes an on-line download, and is set to ship by December 3, 2007.  

The real head-turner here is option number two: download the album at whatever price you choose.  That’s right, customers are given the option to pay anywhere from zero to 99.99 GBP, the latter limited by the size of the price entry field.  

The full length MP3 set will be available for download on October 10, 2007 using an activation code e-mailed to customers who choose to “purchase” the download.  Customers purchasing the discbox will also be able to download the album on the tenth.  

It is hard to say at this point whether this approach will prove to be a competitive business model, but it is certain to generate tremendous interest and accolades from Radiohead’s fans.
It is more difficult than one might think to argue against this model considering the nature of the Web 2.0 economy. 

Many of the Internet’s most popular products, Google, Yahoo! Mail and Wikipedia, all give the majority of their content to users for free.  Further more the barrier to piracy is so low that most content can be taken for free by anyone willing.  Author Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail” is going to explore this topic in his next work, tentatively called “Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price.”   

So what we have here is an outline of a  business model for the “Brave Free World.”  Embrace the fee-free zeitgeist of the web.  Decriminalize the consumers who won’t pay for content.  Maximize your profit by capturing the most wealthy few percentile of customers by maximizing their exposure to your core product.  

In this case the core product is Radiohead, not the album.  Giving away the album should greatly broaden its distribution and the exposure of wealthy consumers.  They will capture the wealth of this upper crust through high value packages like the discbox, world tours, and who knows what other cool things that are worth paying for.  

The only piece of the Web 2.0 business model that Radiohead’s plan is missing is embedded advertising.  Given the band’s philosophies, I don’t think we will be seeing this anytime soon.  

I know everyone is wondering, so I did some research and yes, entering zero for price really does work.  This is not the worst thing that could happen to the band since I will pay for concert tickets to see the band, as I have before, and if the album knocks my socks off I will also pay for  a hard copy of the CD. 


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RE: This would be good news if...
By gramboh on 10/2/2007 6:08:17 PM , Rating: 2
I saw them in Vancouver on the Hail to the Thief tour (late Aug 2003) and it was one of the best concerts I've seen live. As you point out, the Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail stuff is amazing live, a lot different than on the album. I personally prefer OK Computer and The Bends, but I like it all. Hopefully they do a world tour with a few stops in Canada.

FWIW I will probably buy this for $10, even if it's crappy 128kbit. No one has brought up the audio quality yet, one of the main reasons to buy CDs is if you have a decent sound setup, as even 320kbit/V0 VBR sounds like crap compared to CD. Maybe they will have a FLAC?


By Sulphademus on 10/5/2007 10:36:59 AM , Rating: 2
KMFDM sells their music directly as well. They don't have a pay-what-you-want option but its normally 10$ +/- a few for an album's download @ 196k.


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