Radiohead Asks Buyers To Name Price For Download-Only Album Release

Here’s a pricing model you might call the online equivalent of busking – Radiohead, without a label after their EMI/Capitol contract expired in 2005, are releasing their seventh album independently, online and are letting fans decide how much they should pay. In Rainbows will be available only via the band’s website, where fans can place the title in a checkout basket but, on payment, are told “it’s up to you”.

Time magazine hears from a pessimistic record label exec: “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.” And it dug up a 2003 interview in which singer Thom Yorke said: “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.”

ot that the band needs to make one, but industry observers will be fascinated to see if Radiohead can turn a profit this way. Unlike newer acts, Radiohead has built up enough of a following that it can make a zero-cost release and still support itself. Observing that fans can donate as little as the £0.45 ($0.92) credit card handling fee, reckons the band could benefit from sales of a box set (retailing later on CD for £40), customer data acquisition for marketing and the demand the release will create for live performances.