Radiohead’s new record, In Rainbows, is fantastic (although I’m not sure you can accurately call a folder of mp3s a “record”). With it, we witness the band’s return to form following a one album slump. With it, we witness the beginning of the end of how both fans and major media alike interact with content creators of note.
You may have been told that the music industry’s death bell tolled with the recordable CD, the Internet, or Napster. In fact, these innovations helped to fuel rather than decrease music sales. As these channels of distribution allowed a larger number of artists and genres to reach a larger fan base, the overall market grew. More people were listening to more music than ever. The recording industry had a mercurial rise but the very platforms that fueled revenue growth have become the primary cause of their suffering.
Then, 10 days ago, Radiohead sent a shockwave through traditional media by announcing they would release their 10 track record on October 10 (10/10) via their own download sitef (this curious binary-like pattern of 10 was covered in depth at Puddlegum). Fans can pay as little or as much as they want for the digital tracks and a gorgeous fan-friendly physical package was offered for 40£, shipping included. Radiohead is signed to no label and all of the profits minus the expenses related to release will go directly into their pockets. Realize that even the largest bands receive a tiny portion of the retail price of traditionally released music. This figures to be a financial windfall for Radiohead if even only a small percentage of their fans decide to pay a small fee relative to the cost of a retail compact disc.