Radiohead has taken the interesting step of self-publishing their new album in downloadable form, for a user-defined price. People who pre-order the album (due October 10th) are presented with a form where the price for In Rainbows can be filled in, along with a question mark. Clicking the question mark leads to a page that reads, “It’s Up To You,” along with another question mark. Clicking on that leads to a final page that simply reads, “No Really, It’s Up To You.”
(I declared my purchase price to be two quid, which, when combined with the 45p credit card fee and the currency conversion fee from Visa, will probably wind up costing me $6-7 or so. Anecdotally, you could consider this stunt a success, then, as I haven’t purchased a Radiohead album since Kid A, which I loathed…)
I noticed that they left themselves an out — on one of the pages leading up to the album information, they say “So far, it is only available from this website.” (emphasis mine) Since there is a physical version of the album available for order (with CD and vinyl in a special collection), you would think that you will eventually be able to purchase In Rainbows in stores, much like their other albums. By starting with digital distribution through their own site, though, they will make a considerable chunk of cash off of their Net-savvy fans — much more than they would have made off of those same fans buying a CD in a store. I’m still trying to decide for myself if this is just an effective tactic for making money by cutting out the middleman, or a true shot across the bow of the music manufacturing, marketing, and retailing businesses.