In Rainbows

   11 October 2007, early morning

Homer: Eh, what do you mean by `suggested donation’?
Clerk: Pay any amount you wish, sir.
Homer: And uh, what if I wish to pay … zero?
Clerk: That is up to you.
Homer: Ooh, so it’s up to me, is it?
Clerk: Yes.
Homer: I see. And you think that people are going to pay you $4.50 even though they don’t have to? Just out of the goodness of their… [laughs] Well, anything you say! Good luck, lady, you’re gonna need it!

I’m listening to Radiohead’s new album as I type this. This is the first of their albums I’ve bought. (Ahilan is the omega Radiohead fan in the family, and usually buys their CDs the moment they are on the street; I think it’s stupid to own the same CD my brother owns — though now that we don’t live together this is less true.) This is also the first piece of digital music I bought. I’ve always felt paying $10 for a DRM‘ed up set of AAC files is stupid, seeing as how a real-live CD can be purchased for about the same price. As such, the iTunes Music Store has always been a no-go for me. Radiohead let their fans — or people who want their music at the very least — pick how much they wanted to pay. I paid a pound, plus the transaction fee. Thank you Radiohead.

Radiohead’s In Rainbow web site is pretty horrible. I’m curious about how many more CDs Radiohead would have sold had they made the site a bit more clear. There are way too many steps required to buy an album. The site is also being served off some sort of budget server set up. Perhaps Radiohead didn’t anticipate just how popular the album download would be. I had to constantly reload timed-out pages in the hopes of completing the transaction. (As I type this the In Rainbow web site won’t load.) I imagine most people will be dedicated enough to try and complete a purchase, but I also wonder how many people gave up out of frustration.

You download a zip file from Radiohead when all is said and done. This file contains the album, which consists of consists of ten 160kbps MP3 files stored in a folder labeled “Radiohead – In Rainbows”. There is no cover-art, liner notes, etc; It’s all very terse. I’m still undecided on the album itself. I haven’t heard any really stand out songs just yet, but I suppose it’ll take a few listens before I get a sense of what the album is like.

The best part about this whole thing is the fuck you it sends to the record labels, to online music stores, and to anyone else trying to dictate distribution terms to artists. Distribution used to be a difficult problem. Now, Radiohead were pretty much guaranteed to succeed simply because they are Radiohead, but even the smallest of bands can get their music to their fans with little fuss nowadays. Digital distribution is cheap, easy, and more convenient than the old way of doing things. With things like BitTorrent your fan base can even become your distribution channel. There are so many options open to artists nowadays that didn’t exist 10 years back.

It will be interesting to see how some of the big players react to Radiohead’s self-released album. As of today, Apple refuses to sell Radiohead’s albums in one-piece, so Radiohead refuses to use Apple’s site. Radiohead has shown yesterday that they — and anyone else for that matter — really don’t need Apple to get their music out there in a digital format. More so, Radiohead’s album are plain-jane MP3s, so they play anywhere, can be shared with friends without a fuss, and don’t require you to futz around with authorizing and deauthorizing computers and iPods. Radiohead have really trumped Apple here. Whether other artists take notice remains to be seen. As for the the record labels, they really need to figure out what value they add to the whole music equation. There is something to be said for finding and fostering talented musicians, but I’m not so sure record labels do this anymore.

Everyday I feel like i’m living in the future.

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Comments

  1. Welcome to the world of Radiohead!!

    To me, the best thing about Radiohead is its evolution. Most people find OK computer the best of both worlds —fusion between the old and new Radiohead. If you prefer catchy songs like Creep, High and Dry, Street spirit etc…you will probably be disappointed in the post Kid A style of new Radiohead.

    It’s quite a trip to listen to all 7 radiohead albums one after another.

    if you like the new radiohead, then I would recommend Mogwai.

  2. Oh don’t misunderstand, I’ve listened to all their albums. I remember Creep being popular when I was in grade 8, and Just was big when I was in the middle of high school I guess. My friends and I were all obsessed with OK Computer when it came out, which was at the end of high school. My friend Shawn had the album and we'd listen to it whenever we were together. My brother just buys the albums first, so I never get to. I like OK Computer the best, but the Bends is also really good. (Which one has Bullet Proof I wish I was?) I think after OK Computer they got way too weird. I find this album a lot more enjoyable than the last few, but I think maybe my tastes may have changed, and that I should go back and listen to the ones I passed on way back when.

    Did you get a digital copy of this album? Do you get a free copy if you buy the disc copy edition?

  3. i did get a free digital copy with the purchase of the box set!

    and i’m loving it!

    Do you know what the man said in Just?

  4. No? I do know that video was awesome.

  5. I paid 5.50 Canadian. I enjoy some of their songs, but I think they will succeed because nobody has ever done this before (at least nobody as big as radiohead), people will want to be part of this. It’s pretty damn cool.

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