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Miscellaneous Travis Hite on 02 Oct 2007 04:02 am

You can’t steal what you can’t buy


Radiohead dropped what could be considered the biggest bombshell in some time. Now, releasing an album for free is nothing new. Heck, Harvey Danger already put out their album “Little by Little” for free via BitTorrent. Or, there is my personal favorite DIY speed punk band, Bomb The Music Industry!, which puts out ALL of its music for free. Even The Charlatans have announced they will be putting out their next album for free. The problem is, Harvey Danger fell off the map everywhere but Seattle after their smash hit “Flagpole Sitta”, everyone knows punk is dead, and nobody has heard of The Charlatans outside of the UK. It will take a radio darling to break the cycle, and show that the prediction of the end of the modern music label may come true. Enter Radiohead. The recording industry is preparing to crap itself.

Consider the following: why would anyone ever bother to pirate an album they can download for free? It makes sense, doesn’t it? If an album is indeed being offered for free, why anybody bother to illegally distribute it? They’re releasing it at fairly high bitrates, so for fans this is like having your cake and eating it too.
Now, Radiohead is not stupid. This is no charity act here, folks. They want you to donate…if you can. They understand that plenty of people will download the album, listen, and never care again. However, if the current freeware movement that is popular in modern computing shows anything, it’s that people are willing to be charitable when given something free. In fact, some people may go so far as to feel compelled to donate more to cover those who will not donate. Granted, the idea of digital download has failed in other areas. Consider Stephen King’s The Plant. The idea was simple. $1 per person downloading each chapter, with a hope that 75% of the people would pay to download the chapter. It worked, for a while, but after about 6 chapters results were dwindling and King gave up on the idea. Perhaps it was too early on King’s part, as digital ownership was not a hot topic in 2000 when the book was released, but it is proof that the plot has failed before.

But, not to worry, there is a back-up. Some people will want a physical copy, and there are many avid Radiohead fans. For these people, a “discbox” containing both CD and vinyl versions of the album, as well as a bonus CD and vinyl with exclusive bonus tracks, a photobook, and a CD with photos and various other fan goodies is to be released. This tidy little fan package will run the interested fan $80. Consider that’s three CDs, two vinyls, and a book, the price is not exactly outrageous. However, they should be able to clean up a tidy penny for that.

Industry experts believe that this move may embolden other artists to follow their path. Adam Benzine, of ‘Music Week’ fame, told NME

Radiohead have really put the cat amongst the pigeons with this one. The album will revolutionize the way people think about music. It had already forced people to question how much music is actually worth. I saw a posting on a forum with a fan saying he would pay 2.50 for it!

Radiohead have always been about asking questions of their audience. When they did their ‘tent tour’, they wanted to do a tour without any branding.”

It would not be surprising if other bands followed this trend. Consider Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who has been in a battle with his record company over the outrageous price of his album in Australia. With his album going for over $30, and the record company saying that the citizens will pay for his music, he had a few words to say to his fans.

The most important being “Steal it!”

It’s amazing to think. Artists more interested in art than money? Blasphemy, I know, but the trend seems to be there. It’s all there in black and white. Or, for the simple price of a click of a button, all around here.

One Response to “You can’t steal what you can’t buy”

  1. on 03 Oct 2007 at 2:21 PM 1.Mike Lentricchia said …

    Interesting experiment they’re trying here. Even if it fails, hopefully it will spark new and better ideas on how music should be distributed in this age.

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