Name your price for the latest Radiohead album
How much would you pay for the new album by one of the world’s most critically acclaimed rock bands? Radiohead are asking fans to put their own price on the group’s long-awaited new release.
The lack of a fair-priced alternative to illegal downloading has been a common complaint since downloading began to annihilate the recorded music market. Now fans can decide for the first time what to pay, or whether to pay anything at all for the album.
The innovative band, who have sold about 20 million albums and singles, shocked the industry by announcing that their seventh album would be released solely through their website.
In Rainbows, a ten-track album, will be released as a digital download next Wednesday. Fans who tried to pre-order the download were told that they could name their own price.
When users click on a question mark next to a blank price box, the message “It’s up to you” comes up. A subsequent screen reassures fans: “No really, it’s up to you.”
New albums are usually sold for £7.99 through iTunes. But In Rainbows can be downloaded free, bar a 45p transaction charge. It is their first since their contract with EMI expired, and will be sold as high-quality MP3 files, which can be copied across the internet and between digital music players. Their website has been swamped with orders, and chat forums are debating the appropriate amount to tender.
Some sheepishly admitted to paying nothing. One respondent replied: “Unless u literally have no money in the bank or don’t have a credit card, at least pay a bit for a GIFT from this amazing band.” Scratchy clips of the band playing the new songs on YouTube were scoured to assess the album’s likely value.
Radiohead refuse to allow their albums to be sold on iTunes because they do not want purchasers to be able to cherry-pick individual tracks.
Ben Drury, deputy chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said that the “honesty box” download challenged Apple’s policy of charging a fixed 79p price for tracks and was another step towards variable pricing. He said that the album would be posted immediately on pirate MP3 websites. The band also announced a £40 discbox version of the album, containing two CDs, extra tracks, artwork and a book that fans began to order as collector’s items. This will not be delivered until December.
Radiohead’s move was a blow to struggling high street music stores and EMI, which has released their records since 1992. With legal downloads failing to make up a 10 per cent slump in album sales this year, artists with a strong live following, such as Prince and the Charlatans, are beginning to abandon the paid-for album. Prince gave his new CD away free with a Sunday newspaper.
Listen to songs from the new album