Radiohead: Free as in No Record Label

Radiohead have finished their new album. It will be available as a download, without any record label or store as an intermediary. It will also be available as a deluxe “discbox,” but let’s concentrate on the download.

This is huge news, for reasons including the following: the price for the download is set by the customer; there is no record label involved; it’s Radiohead! Choosing your own price to download music isn’t new; for example, Jane Siberry has used this model for years now. But the current story is about… Radiohead!

Daniel Langendorf at last100 found some good quotes for his post on the story.

  • Thom Yorke, when the band’s contract with EMI expired four years ago: “it probably would give us perverse pleasure to say ‘f*** you’ to this decaying business model.”
  • A record company exec: “If the best band in the world doesn’t want any part of us, I’m not sure what’s left for this business.”
  • A record producer: “if you can pay whatever you want for the music by the best band in the world, why would you pay 13 dollars or 99 cents for music by somebody less talented?”

Daniel also remarks that “pre-ordering In Rainbows was a pain.” I certainly found it so. I got two different error messages while using the site, and no confirmation email. I’ll try again tomorrow, and I’ll check my credit card statement soon.

I dread to think how busy the site will be when it starts to allow the (millions of?) prepaid downloads. Perhaps dread is too strong a word; perhaps it should be reserved for how major record labels must be feeling now.

7 thoughts on “Radiohead: Free as in No Record Label”

  1. Hi Andrew. Nice post. I found some interesting discussion about this on a blog called Marginal Revolution and touched on it on my own blog, If the labels are just starting to feel dread, they’ve been under a rock. 🙂

  2. Derek, thanks for the kind words. Yes, this should increase the dread, rather than start it. And yes, the record labels are under a rock, or something worse…

  3. Hi Andrew, this is Giuseppe, 35, from Italy. I subscribe each and every word of your post. Yes, many other artist did things like this, but as you said the whole point is, this is Radiohead!

    Yesterday the site was a bit slow but not as terrible as I could have thought.
    I had to reload it twice and then it worked, but, yesterday was *the* day!
    The greatest thing is that, then, it only took 2 (TWO) minutes to download the full album, in the very release day. I’m thinking they must be using some sort of torrent technology, or else I can’t understand how they did achieve such speeds. Fantastic.
    Then… I must add that the first record I ever downloaded honestly in my life is GREAT -they could have added some art, a little thank you letter, photos, but that’s ok, the most important thing is, the record is GREAT- and I’m so happy to have got it without my usual boring unhonest e.mule or an unusual and equally stupid itunes. No DRM here!
    I’m SO happy to have given my money directly to Radiohead, and I’d like to do this way with every artist I can. I hope this is the new way, without any record company.
    Hail to the givers!

  4. Thanks for commenting here, Giuseppe.

    “GREAT -they could have added some art, a little thank you letter, photos, but that’s ok, the most important thing is, the record is GREAT”

    There are probably fans who have done “here’s my album cover design” art. But, as you say, the music is the important thing.

    “I’m SO happy to have given my money directly to Radiohead”
    Me too!

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