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Radiohead Lets Consumers Pay What They Want for Latest Album

After Radiohead’s contract with EMI/Capitol expired following their last album, Hail to the Thief, they decided to take a different path. Rather than sign a new contract for their upcoming record, In Rainbows, the extremely popular British rock band will post it exclusively for download on Radiohead.com beginning October 10th. The price? "It’s up to you." Or, in other words, consumers can choose what amount (if any) they want to pay for the album.

Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer, commented, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘F___ you’ to this decaying business model."

Record label officials were stunned at the announcement. One lamented, "This feels like yet another death knell. If the best band in the world doesn’t want a part of us, I’m not sure what’s left for this business." A producer who works with American rap artist had a more economical outlook. "Radiohead is the best band in the world; if you can pay whatever you want for music by the best band in the world, why would you pay $13 dollars or $.99 cents for music by somebody less talented? Once you open that door and start giving music away legally, I’m not sure there’s any going back."

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The key part of the article, in my opinion, is at the very end:

[A]s record sales decline, the concert business is booming. In July, Prince gave away his album Planet Earth for free in the U.K. through the downmarket Mail on Sunday newspaper. At first he was ridiculed. Then he announced 21 consecutive London concert dates — and sold out every one of them.

Twenty-one consecutive concerts sold out in one city – even though each ticket probably cost over twice as much as a full-priced album. This, to me, should be the way musicians make their money (in addition to selling clothing, participating in endorsements, etc.). Free music for all, and the musicians still get rich.

Of course, most bands don’t have the name recognition and popularity of either Radiohead or Prince – and they may want to enlist the help of a record company to assist in booking tours, finances, and publicity. Once again, however, free music doesn’t seem to be a hindrance. In fact, many less-well-known artists use free music as an effective means of getting the word out. Those who run across their freely traded mp3s may be enticed to come to a concert, befriend them on MySpace, or – most importantly – to tell a friend.

I just downloaded the album from Radiohead’s site and noticed it doesn’t have an album art image tagged on. After a little searching, the best one I could find was posted here. 600px, so it’s nice and crisp, too.

Ironically enough, LegalSounds.com lists Radiohead’s new album as their top seller.

It’s a silly, silly world.

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