There was certainly a lot going on in music this past week, but a lot of the talk was about the new Radiohead album.
The band announced, about ten days in advance, that its new album, In Rainbows, would be available as a pay-what-you-want download only. No more label getting in the way, because they no longer have one. So…you want to pay a penny? No problem! Five Euros? Also okay.
What I find the most interesting about the Radiohead business model is that it sort of keeps the music behind bars again. I mean, by releasing their new album via Web only, you can't hear what you're paying for in advance.
Radiohead is banking that fans will want this record because they dug past Radiohead records. You have to pay for the download and hope you like it. The pay-what-you-want model begs the question, how much is the Radiohead brand worth to you?
Many artists have gone the other way. They either tour like crazy to make cash and build a name, use MySpace, or both. Look at the careers of Mickey Avalon, Lily Allen and Kate Nash. All of them made it big on MySpace, where listeners can sample the music freely.
The other big CD news this week was the new Oasis single, "Lord Don't Hold Me Down." Once again, this band made its music available as a download only. Oasis is not with a label right now and may also decide to put their album out as a pay-what-you-can, set-price, or free download. It will be interesting to see what the band members decide.
Oh, and by the way, The Charlatans UK are giving away their album for free via a London, UK radio station, X FM. This same station played In Rainbows in full the day it came out. In fact, poke around there and you can probably still hear it.
What does this say about the future of the music industry and the way music is marketed? I think people most definitely want to hear new ideas and sounds. Whether or not it's better to give away your album for free, sell it for five bucks, or.. sell it
through Wal-Mart, as the Eagles are doing.. remains to be seen.