NY Post: Radioheading In A New Direction

October 2, 2007

RADIOHEAD, one of rock’s most popular acts, shocked and awed fans yesterday by announcing that its new album, “In Rainbows,” would be digitally available next week – and you could pay whatever you wanted for it. That means you can pay $1, $100 or nothing – except for a small credit-card handling charge.

“It really puts the onus on the fan to be respectful to the artist,” says consultant Ted Cohen, a former EMI exec now with TAG Strategic. “We’re giving you the music the way you want it and with no restrictions. They’re saying, ‘Let your
conscience be your guide on what our music is worth to you.'”

When word first got out about the offer, some fans, posting on the Internet, thought it was a hoax. However, yesterday morning the U.K. band’s Jonny Greenword said on the band’s official site – radiohead.com/deadairspace – the album would be due in 10 days, Oct. 10.

“It’s Mr. Yorke being as holistic as possible,” says Cohen, referring to lead singer Thom Yorke. “He’s saying to fans, ‘We respect you, please respect us.'”

Radiohead heads can pre-order the pay-what-you-wish download at inrainbows.com or they can buy a pricier box set, which will include the digital download, the CD, a bonus CD, two vinyl copies of each, “pretty” artwork and lyrics for 40 British pounds (about $82) and shipping. That’s due around Dec. 3. The CD will also be available in stores next year.

“Radiohead clearly doesn’t care how much you pay. If someone says, ‘I will only pay a penny,’ that person was probably going to steal it anyway, so what are you out?,” says Geoff Mayfield, charts guru at Billboard. “The band is kind of going on the mindset that kids have a loyalty to acts they really enjoy as well as to independent acts.”

As for the buying-just-the-single mentality, that may not apply to Radiohead. For more established acts such as Coldplay and Beck, fans tend to download entire albums, rather than cherry pick tracks, says Mayfield.

Radiohead’s contractual agreement with EMI/Capitol Records expired after 2003’s release of “Hail To The Thief,” which sold 932,000 copies according to Nielsen Soundscan.

“They can do this because of years of treating their fans right. They’ve got credibility,” says Bob Lefsetz, a music industry blogger (lefsetz.com). “They’re not about the money. They’re about separating themselves from the mainstream industry.”

Cohen points out that offering music for free is no different from what young bands do. “What’s cool is that it’s a very big band doing this,” he says. “It’s a great social experiment. It will be interesting if they share the results. It’s a great spectator sport.”



Posted by Ted • Tuesday, October 2, 2007 .