I’ve been saying for a few years now that as soon as a major band started selling their own records on their own website, the music companies were doomed. Today it looks like the revolution has started. Radiohead, the superstar band that finished their contract with EMI following their last album ‘Hail To The Thief’ have announced that their new album ‘In Rainbows’ will be released on October 10th, purely through their website. In a move that’s going to send ripples through the music industry, the album download has no set price. The website literally says ‘Pay what you want’. With Nine Inch Nails pledging to sell all their records direct to fans after their contract ends, it’s looking like the future of music is going to be very different.
Radiohead’s move is a very smart one – bands make the majority of their money by touring under the current economic model. Even if large numbers of people download the album for free, aside from the small cost of recording and the bandwidth for their website, the album has virtually no overheads as a digital download. That means that any money donated by downloaders goes straight into the band’s pockets without going through ten different middle-managers first, exactly as I said in my post about amazon’s DRM free model last week. Even if the average payment for a download is £3, Radiohead will perversely still get a fair bit more money than the 5% -odd royalty cut of a £10 CD sold in HMV or Virgin. It’s reassuring that the move has been made by a band that in my opinion is one of the best in the world.