Radiohead And Their New Album: Do Not Try This At Home.


So Radiohead is eschewing the labels for their new album, and they’re distributing it themselves as well. An interesting move they should be able to pull off (curious if issues will occur on 10/10 when everybody tries to download it).

As a Radiohead fan I’ve pre-ordered the album. The idea that you can just pay what you want is intriguing. They can do this because they’re popular, and are also selling a box set for over $80 US that will net them a tidy profit. I expect most people will kick in some money on the download album anyway. For the curious, I’m paying roughly $7 (depending on exchange rate); I believe nine or ten dollars for an online album is too much.

Anyway, I’m not posting to mention my music choices, but rather to comment about some that apparently feel this is how other bands should push their music. For example, MacUser’s Derik DeLong writes:

“I can see bands selling their music DRM free on their own websites becoming a really compelling new business model.”

Um, no. If there are any bands sitting at home considering what Radiohead is doing, unless your name is The Beatles, or Led Zeppelin, or something similar, don’t.

There are no details about Radiohead’s album files except a track list. Is there album art? Is it DRM-free? What encoding method? What bit rate? Beats me. For all I know I’m getting 128K WMA files with Microsoft DRM!! Of course, I’m assuming that’s not the case, and these will be high-quality DRM-free files. I trust Radiohead to do this right.

But do I want to negotiate a separate web site, and would I trust, most bands? For bands I’ve only heard a small sample of, how much “risk” do I take? More importantly, how many slow (and ugly) web sites am I willing to navigate and enter address and credit card information? Not many. Your average garage or bar band is not Radiohead.

I think it’s great if a band wants to cut the labels loose, but that’s a separate issue. You can make your own album these days, but when it comes to distribution — unless you’re giving it away — please use eMusic, iTunes, AmazonMP3, or some other easy, secure, cross-platform merchant. Even as much a music lover as I am, there are only so many sites I’m providing sensitive information to in my quest for tunes. If every band wants to have their own, many of them are going to get overlooked.

Don’t people consider logistics and usability before they talk about “compelling” new business models? It may be great for Radiohead, but for acts like Bishop Allen or The Cinematics, I may never have bought their stuff if it wasn’t on sites like eMusic, iTunes, or Amazon.