I’m very very curious about what’s going on with Radiohead’s new album, which — you probably know this — they’re offering in a download format, for which you pay whatever you want. It all seems very on the level: you go to the site, you type in how much you’re paying, and you get a code. Then you wait till October 10, when the album officially drops.
This is hardly the Internet’s first go-round with the question, ‘will people pay for good content if they’re not forced to?’ Though we’ve rarely seen the question put so baldly, and from such a high-profile artist. It’s a simple proposition, but it does leave a few questions unanswered:
— Why are they doing this? Is it a protest directed against record companies that push for overly fat profit margins? Is it a Milgramesque test of human nature? A piece of performance art, meant as an extension of the album itself? Do they believe for some reason that music should be free-as-in-Freebird? Or do they think they might actually make more money this way, by cyber-busking? Which I wouldn’t absolutely rule out. I kinda wish they’d given us more context for the decision. But I guess they’re mysterious that way.
— What format will they release the album in? How far are they willing to go with this? Will the music be DRMed? This information may be out there in the interverse, but I haven’t seen it.
— Will we ever know what happened? Like I said I’m super-curious about how “music fans” will respond to the offer. But I doubt we’ll ever really find out — if they’re running this whole show themselves, there’s no real incentive for them to release audited numbers about how many copies got downloaded, and what people paid.
As for me, I haven’t pre-ordered. I’ve got nothing against Radiohead, they’re just a bit earnest for my taste. But if you’re curious, NME has compiled some YouTube clips featuring tracks from the new album.