View Full Version : Radiohead to let fans choose price of new album

10-02-2007, 10:07 PM

Pay what you want for new Radiohead
By JAKE COYLE, AP Entertainment Writer
Tue Oct 2, 6:51 PM ET

Radiohead is thinking about the future again.

Ten years ago, the British band released their landmark album "OK Computer," a masterpiece hailed as visionary for its forecast of a soul-crushing computerized dystopia.

Sounds a little like today's music industry.

On Monday, Radiohead sent shockwaves through the music biz with the announcement that its new album, "In Rainbows," will be released for download from http://www.radiohead.com on Oct. 10. The price? Whatever you choose. You elect how much to pay, be it one cent, $15 or $100. (A special edition box set with a vinyl version and other items is also available for approximately $81.)

After releasing all six of their previous albums with Capitol Records, Radiohead doesn't currently have a record contract. "In Rainbows" will be available as a DRM-free MP3 download.

Major labels aren't the only ones pondering a potentially bleak financial future where the public expects recorded music to be free. Bands, too, need to find a solution, and Radiohead just proved they're as willing to experiment with distribution as with sonic soundscapes.

Naturally, guitarist Johnny Greenwood announced the album in a Web posting: "Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in ten days," he wrote succinctly.

Radiohead's public relations firm shortly thereafter announced that there will be no advance copies or digital streams for press or anyone else before Oct. 10.

To a certain extent, this can be seen as a way of eliminating the possibility of the album leaking, which typically occurs via advance copies. Fans needn't download it illegally, since they can download it for a penny — or technically more like two pennies, because the lowest option is one British pence.

Radiohead is now discussing contract possibilities with several labels, all of whom can be expected to wonder: "What does Radiohead need us for?" The band is planning a traditional CD release for early next year.

But labels are in the business of distribution, and Radiohead's online release shows the band can fend for themselves. The eyes of the music industry will be on "In Rainbows" to see if this is the watershed moment that will change the business.

Of course, not many bands could pull this off. Radiohead has built a giant, loyal fanbase through its years with Capitol, aided by the label's promotion and distribution. Few bands have the luxury of taking such an audacious risk or the cachet to bank on their fans.

The choose-your-own-price method is doubly risky and seems almost like an experiment to pinpoint pricing demand. But should anyone pay more than what someone is willing to sell it for? Does one have to consult with an ethicist to listen to Radiohead now?

Clearly, Apple's iTunes model isn't satisfactory to Radiohead. The band, which has long believed in the artistic integrity of the album in full, is one of the few acts that still doesn't sell their songs on iTunes.

Prince has also experimented with giving away music. The R&B star has in recent years given away discs to concert attendees and earlier this year distributed his "Planet Earth" album as a free covermount for an English newspaper. The move angered U.K. retailers and led to Sony BMG withdrawing from Prince's global distribution deal.

But Radiohead is completely unfettered now, without a record label to submit to or retailers to placate. With the tool of the Internet, it's just them and their fans.

Mile High Mania
10-02-2007, 10:12 PM
Hmmm... never realized they were still around.

10-02-2007, 10:12 PM
this will be interesting.
can't wait for the album.

10-02-2007, 10:22 PM
Hmmm... never realized they were still around.

If you mean- not having a lable and releasing their CD on the Internet for One cent- Yep they are still around.

10-02-2007, 10:23 PM
1 cent sounds good to me.

10-02-2007, 10:24 PM
Well, I may get it.

Think about it....I think I heard somewhere that The artist only gets a certain portion of what a CD sells for, because of packaging, and legalities and shit like that.

This way, if they get people to pay $5 for the MP3s, they may make as much as normal.

I'll be willing to throw down a couple bucks for it, I dont even really like them.

10-03-2007, 12:19 AM
Well, I may get it.

Think about it....I think I heard somewhere that The artist only gets a certain portion of what a CD sells for, because of packaging, and legalities and shit like that.

This way, if they get people to pay $5 for the MP3s, they may make as much as normal.

I'll be willing to throw down a couple bucks for it, I dont even really like them.
IIRC they make far less than $5 per album. Basically by the time it's said and done the artists make squat on the album sales. Courtney Love actually did a nice work-up on music industry math:

Tipping/music as service

I know my place. I'm a waiter. I'm in the service industry.

I live on tips. Occasionally, I'm going to get stiffed, but that's OK. If I work hard and I'm doing good work, I believe that the people who enjoy it are going to want to come directly to me and get my music because it sounds better, since it's mastered and packaged by me personally. I'm providing an honest, real experience. Period.

When people buy the bootleg T-shirt in the concert parking lot and not the more expensive T-shirt inside the venue, it isn't to save money. The T-shirt in the parking lot is cheap and badly made, but it's easier to buy. The bootleggers have a better distribution system. There's no waiting in line and it only takes two minutes to buy one.

I know that if I can provide my own T-shirt that I designed, that I made, and provide it as quickly or quicker than the bootleggers, people who've enjoyed the experience I've provided will be happy to shell out a little more money to cover my costs. Especially if they understand this context, and aren't being shoveled a load of shit about "uppity" artists.

It's exactly the same with recorded music. The real thing to fear from Napster is its simple and excellent distribution system. No one really prefers a cruddy-sounding Napster MP3 file to the real thing. But it's really easy to get an MP3 file; and in the middle of Kansas you may never see my record because major distribution is really bad if your record's not in the charts this week, and even then it takes a couple of weeks to restock the one copy they usually keep on hand.

10-10-2007, 08:12 AM
anyone pick this up yet?

10-10-2007, 09:07 AM
anyone pick this up yet?Listening now.

10-10-2007, 09:34 AM
I'm trying to get it. Looks like their site is taking a beating this morning.

10-10-2007, 09:39 AM
Listening now.
how does it compare to their last album?

10-10-2007, 12:15 PM
WTF? I can't find a download link on their website.

10-10-2007, 01:43 PM
WTF? I can't find a download link on their website.

Hit "PRE-ORDER" to the right of the big "DOWNLOAD" graphic.
Hit "View Basket" after the page refreshes.
Enter how much you want to pay for it, then press "Pay Now."
The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

I'll also mention that I had trouble getting the site to kick over to the payment web site after pressing "Pay Now" in Firefox. IE went through fine.

10-10-2007, 05:54 PM
I'd think just the goodwill alone will make them some good money.

I sure hope so, anyway.

10-13-2007, 07:14 PM
I do not know how accurate this site is but I came across this:

Remember when Radiohead announced last week that they would be releasing their seventh album, In Rainbows, via their official website and that fans could pay whatever they want (even nothing!) for the music? And then everyone from Madonna to Nine Inch Nails came out of the woodwork and announced they were also leaving their major label home to try unique methods of selling straight to the public?

Well, it turns out Radiohead mighta been scamming us in order to build enough hype around the album for it to get picked up by one of the major label the band appeared to be rallying against.


Turns out, many feel the quality of the downloads the band is offering on its site are…um…crappy. And, even worse, the band's managers made a statement that the you-choose-the-price downloads plan was just a promotional tool for the release of the CD.

Regarding the possible crappiness, on October 9, the day before the album became available for download, fans who ordered the album got an email from the band’s online store saying that "the album [would] come as a 48.4 MB ZIP file containing 10 x 160 [kilobits per second], DRM-free MP3s." This pissed off many fans because 1. all of Radiohead's other albums are available as MP3s encoded at the higher-quality 320 kilobits per second (the highest-possible compression rate in the format, though still not as good sounding as a CD), and 2. no one was told this until AFTER they paid for the service.

Then managers Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge mentioned in a recent interview about how the downloadable version of Rainbows figures into the larger plan of releasing a retail version in 2008.

"In November we have to start with the mass-market plans and get them under way," Hufford said.

"If we didn't believe that when people hear the music they will want to buy the CD, then we wouldn't do what we are doing," Edge added.

In other words, some fans feel the band purposely released a low quality version to fans for this go around, knowing full well they’d be releasing a better quality version in stores later on. This way, fans would have to re-buy it to get the best quality version, and when peer-to-peers got hold of it, they’d be trading inferior copies. All this might not be so bad if the band had been up front about it and described it as a chance for fans to hear the music early, in advance of the high quality CD version. But the impression some got was that this downloadable copy WAS the final, official, best quality version.

So is this kinda sneaky and capitalistic for a band who prides themselves on being a band of the people, a band of outsiders, not influenced by the evil music business, huh? or did everyone jump the gun and assume there wouldn't be a major label version, when the band never actually said that, per say?

But...if you paid nothing for it, then what do you have to complain about anyways?


10-13-2007, 08:09 PM
There must be some really anal people in the world. Most of the MP3's you download from "alternate sources" are either 128 or 160kbps. I bought the album for $5, and certainly don't regret it.

10-13-2007, 09:55 PM
There must be some really anal people in the world. Most of the MP3's you download from "alternate sources" are either 128 or 160kbps. I bought the album for $5, and certainly don't regret it.No shit.

****ing douchenozzles.

10-13-2007, 10:10 PM
Smed's post was correct. Radiohead has pocketed over $6 million dollars (by most estimates) for delivering mp3 files that are no where near CD quality. It's proven to be the biggest publicity stunt in the digital age, especially given that the Vinyl Set will be $86 dollars a pop.

As I've detailed ad nauseam in the past, typical record deals pay 14-21% of the retail selling price (the 14% represents new bands, 21% "Super Star Act"). So if the retail price is $16.99, a new band will receive approximately $2.38 per copy and a SSA will receive $3.57 a copy.

Until a band recoups their expenses (recording costs, video, marketing & promotions), they won't see any of the income from sales. So if a label fronts $750k for said expenses (that's on the low-end) a band will need to sell around 300,000 units to break even. At that point, the label may see the band taking off and may choose to cut another video and up their marketing and may invest another $250-300k, which means the band need to continue to sell records to break even. Usually around the 750k to 1 million mark, artists usually begin to see royalties.

These figures do not include income from publishing, film & television licensing or touring (though many labels provide tour support, which also comes out of the bands recoupment).

Regardless of these figures, Radiohead has done well for themselves with this particular venture. What hasn't been advertised is that they are currently involved in negotiations for a record deal, which will provide them with further income and if they decided not to license the album and sell it outright, may net them as much as $2 million more dollars upfront.

So while it's a "nice" story, the whole story hasn't been told to the public.

Hopefully, those who have bought the album for either 1 cent or $10 dollars are enjoying the music.

10-13-2007, 10:15 PM
There must be some really anal people in the world. Most of the MP3's you download from "alternate sources" are either 128 or 160kbps. I bought the album for $5, and certainly don't regret it.
There are quite a few people who are particular about that, making sure downloads are of high quality. Personally, that's what I don't like about listening to mp3's, they aren't as good as CD quality. But I intentionally reduce the bitrate of everything I put on my mp3 player so I can fit more stuff on there.

10-14-2007, 01:55 AM
What is funny is that I came across this site searching for the Chiefs VS Bungels game and thought that was strange.

Maybe another marketing idea since the NFL is a big market and links are inexpensive.

I was not complaining of the quality because I paid $7.00 for the download.

I did not expect CD quality but was hoping this a trend against the "big" recording companies and crazy lawsuits.

Seems this might delay that hope?

KC Jones
10-14-2007, 03:33 AM
So... they are offering them at the highest available quality in MP3 format and people are complaining?


10-14-2007, 03:58 AM
So... they are offering them at the highest available quality in MP3 format and people are complaining?

No, I think you read that backwards. Normally they offer their downloads in highest possible quality... but these are much less than that. The highest quality is a bitrate of 320.... but instead of that, this album was released at 160, if I read that right. Which is a difference.

To be honest, most casual listeners probably don't give a hoot about that... and I bet a lot of people load stuff on their ipods at that quality or less. But this is just speculation on my part, but I think Radiohead would be the type of band to attract a pretty hardcore fanbase. And probably one of people who are more astute listeners, and concerned about quality, being a completist, etc.

Most importantly though, whether that's true or not, I'd guess many of those hardcore fans probably paid near full regular album price to support their guys, under the idea that they were fighting against the record companies. And the band got their cut from that and they now will sign a record deal and put out a CD/vinyl/etc and try to get those fans again, because they'll want a top quality version of the album.

KC Jones
10-14-2007, 04:07 AM
oh... well you know, reading comprehension is for pussies. :harumph:

10-14-2007, 03:54 PM
I guess I stirred the pot again......


10-14-2007, 04:09 PM

Jeezus, people are complaining over a free CD download? It's FREE for a reason.

Whatever......I downloaded it and thought it was another fantastic Radiohead album. Hopefully they do a US tour, their shows are ridiculous.

10-16-2007, 02:11 AM
Count me as one that was pretty disappointed with the 160kbps release as the only download option. Though I am really enjoying the album and hope there is a CD release soon.