Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Wednesday is Radiohead’s web giveaway day

Radiohead’s decision to sell – or give away – their music directly to their fans via the web is the “music news story of the year”, according to one of many postings on the On The Record blog this week. …

Fri, Oct 5, 2007, 10:25

   

Radiohead’s decision to sell – or give away – their music directly to their fans via the web is the “music news story of the year”, according to one of many postings on the On The Record blog this week.

Much of the web and media coverage this week has focused on Radiohead’s unusual plan to let the public decide how much to pay – and they can choose to pay nothing but a tiny administration charge – when they download the band’s new album, In Rainbows, from Wednesday next. This is a first for a band of their stature.

Hardcore fans can also buy the album in physical form. Many have already put in orders for the £40 (€57) deluxe “discbox” of In Rainbows – containing two CDs, two 12-inch vinyl records, artwork and lyric booklets – to be shipped in time for Christmas.

However, amid all the hype about the band’s decision to bypass the conventional record label fandango, it could be overlooked that there will also be a conventional CD release in 2008.

Radiohead’s former label EMI claims to be in talks with the band, and other labels doubtless are keen to work with them too, so you can expect the conventional CD release to involve a label tie-in of one kind or another.

This is to be expected when you consider the huge costs and administrative headaches involved in overseeing the distribution of an album to a worldwide market. Radiohead will probably rely on the expertise of an established major indie or chain of distribution companies, which will naturally take a cut.

Other heritage acts are certain to follow Radiohead’s high- profile move, and some will be hoping for a similar PR bump.

Pity The Charlatans then, who picked a bad week to announce plans to give away their forthcoming album as a free download – only to see their news overshadowed by Thom and friends’ announcement.

But the Radiohead move is unlikely to be a useful business model for new bands or acts who have not yet developed large followings.

Because of past revenue and future live earnings and income, not to mention the brand they’ve created with the help of six albums on EMI, Radiohead can afford to go it alone. They can also afford to let their fans decide how much the new album is worth. It will be interesting to see if other acts do likewise.

On the blog today: how much would you pay for a new album by your favourite act?