Karma Police

How much would you pay for the new Radiohead album? Would you drop $14.99 for a CD or $9.99 for a digital download? How about $81 or just 10 cents.

It’s not just a theoretical question – the rock auteurs have announced their latest album, In Rainbows, will be available for download off the website, with buyers choosing what to pay. It’s an interesting challenge to the record labels, digital retailers and fans alike.

If a band only earns 10% of the retail price of a CD, then even the equivalent of the cost of one track from iTunes would potentially net them just as much. Of course some people will still download it for free, but those people likely weren’t going to buy it in the first place. For those who do pay, all the money is going to the band and the middlemen get zilch.

The pricing model for music is still being worked out. P2P networks forced labels to start selling digitally and Steve Jobs laid down the gauntlet that has sent the DRM walls tumbling in the past few months. Now Radiohead and their ilk are throwing new options into the mix.

People really should pay something for music – and I say this as someone who has indulged in my fair share of downloads. No matter how much labels and retailers might be taking off the top, some does filter down to the artist. And even musicians that offer their music for free needs to make something off their art. You don’t see them playing tours for free, do you? So if bands are now taking distribution into their own hands and the money (or at least more of it) goes directly into their pockets, all the better.

As for Radiohead, I plan to pay $5. I really haven’t enjoyed anything since OK Computer, but for that amount what do I have to lose?


  1. Wow...they really do like South Park, don't they?

  2. I think Radiohead has a good idea, although I wonder if you get to preview the songs before buying them? Before I decide what I want to pay, I would want to hear what I am paying for!

  3. I thought this was a fantastic idea and one I'm more than happy to support.

    I hope it works out so well for them that other bands follow suit.

  4. I suppose you could always pay a nominal fee, get the album and listen to it, then buy it again at the price you think it is worth.

  5. I think it's a clever idea and I'm really interested in seeing how it all works out. If we factor in the enjoyment we get from some music and average out the happiness per listen cost music ends up being one of the least expensive happiness inducers out there.
    PS- So glad you're back!!

  6. Thanks for noticing I was gone! As you can see, my return is going to be sporadic, but I'll do my best. I missed you guys.

  7. seems like a great idea

    glad to have you back

  8. They have apparently already made 10 million dollars profit from the idea.