Radiohead's Business HeadJon Fine
For starters: Radiohead—probably the biggest unsigned band in the world—is putting out said album, In Rainbows, without any record label. For another: If you want to buy a digital download of the album, you go to Radiohead’s Web site and pay … whatever price you want to pay.
Getting physical copies of In Rainbows does cost something, but for a high price one gets a pretty luxe package.
The full story, from a very excited Pitchfork writer:
A new Radiohead album, out October 10! Nice surprise, huh? It’s called In Rainbows, duh. And it appears that Radiohead have chosen to not sign with a record label and are releasing it themselves via their website, at least for now.
And that’s probably the least crazy aspect of this whole thing.
You can pre-order it from their website right now as a download or a “discbox.” What’s a discbox? Why, it’s pretty sweet:
“THIS CONSISTS OF THE NEW ALBUM, IN RAINBOWS, ON CD AND ON 2 X 12 INCH HEAVYWEIGHT VINYL RECORDS. A SECOND, ENHANCED CD CONTAINS MORE NEW SONGS, ALONG WITH DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHS AND ARTWORK. THE DISCBOX ALSO INCLUDES ARTWORK AND LYRIC BOOKLETS. ALL ARE ENCASED IN A HARDBACK BOOK AND SLIPCASE. THE ALBUM DOWNLOAD AUTOMATICALLY COMES WITH THIS PACK.”
That will run you 40 pounds, or about $81 as of today. (Which next week could well be $85 or $90, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) But:
And lest you think Radiohead are ripping their fans off, check this out: If you order the download only, you can pay HOWEVER MUCH MONEY YOU WANT for it. Like, there’s no set price. Like, I just paid eight bucks for the new Radiohead album.
Maybe you can pay zero dollars?
Or 35 cents, for the entire 18 song digital package. (UPDATE: My bad—digital download is restricted to 8 songs. Thanks to commenter Albert for pointing this out. UPDATE, MACH II: Make that a ten song download.) Radiohead is trusting its fans to do the right thing, or something approximating the right thing.
And I tend to think they will.
File under “needless to say:” It’s very hard to imagine an actual big-deal record label attempting anything like this.
(Hat tip to my colleague and BusinessWeek art director Andrew Horton, who called this to my attention.)