Radiohead has taken the unprecedented step (at least for a band this well known) of releasing their new CD in digital format from their website only. They have completely bypassed the major record labels for this, and are not even putting a price on the music – asking instead that their fans pay whatever they are willing to pay for the music. It’s available as a downloaded file, or shipped to you in a CD box.
The move has garnered quite a bit of notice from the press – and it remains to be seen what impact this will have on future releases from the group. While it is a bold move by the band, the downloaded files that had been legally purchased were already available all over the Internet for free to anyone willing to search for them. While I applaud the band for breaking from the grips of the major record labels, I still see the piracy issue as an enormous drain on artist revenues. For a band as big as Radiohead, live performance revenues can easily fill the gap created by low sales revenues. But for new bands just starting to break, loss of any revenue remains problematic. At the same time, revenues from CD sales are so pathetic (from the artist perspective) that maybe Radiohead is right – and abandoning an organization that keeps 99% of the revenue from CD sales actually makes sense. I suppose time will tell – either way, the new release is good stuff – and worth whatever you’re willing to pay for it.