Sunday, October 14, 2007

Radiohead to Music Industry: This is What You Get, When You Mess With Us

As some of you old-timers may remember, I went to a Radiohead concert last summer, as they are one of my favorite bands (and one of the only bands my husband and I actually both like) -- The Bends graces my 'top 5 favorite CDs of all time' list. While I definitely enjoyed the show, one of my complaints was that they played a bunch of songs that I didn't know. So now I feel all cool because I recognize many of those songs on their controversial new album, In Rainbows.

Their first release since 2003 isn't causing drama because of the actual songs, but rather, as I'm sure you've heard by now, because of the fact that they are directly distributing it to fans through a web site which lets the user determine how much to pay for it. My husband had already downloaded it and we've been listening to it for the past few days, but I decided this morning that I wanted to go through the beginning of the ordering process myself. Because I am a big nerd, I got a huge kick out of it. It's not the most user-friendly site in the world, but it is kind of funny. Once you order the download (there is also an option to order the physically delivered "discbox" (read: box set) for $80 that ships on December 3rd and includes the digital download as well) you can view your "basket" and then that's where you can enter in whatever price you deem the album worthy of, up to 99 British pounds (roughly $200). Next to the field where you enter in the amount, there is a question mark. When you click on it, you go to a screen that says, "It's up to you." And then there's another question mark, which links to another screen that insists, "No really, it's up to you." After chuckling at that, I went back to the shopping cart screen and entered in zeros for the price and then hit "Pay now." The next screen contained a message that read, "We value your custom. You are now in a queue," and it looked like it was starting to process something. So I hit the Back button on my browser and typed in "10" and hit "Pay now" and it went to a screen where you need to start entering in your information. Incredible. Now at least I know that the band "values the custom" of getting something for nothing.

So of course this play by Radiohead is scaring the crap out of the big music labels, because it's showing that they can be cut out of the picture. Radiohead's contract expired with their old label, EMI, in 2003, which is why they can now try out the direct distribution method. And since they're probably banking on a good percentage of their fans to cough up way more money than they would normally pay for a CD acquired by normal means just to send a message to The Man, there is really no risk for them to have tried this out. While both Prince and the band The Charlatans have employed similar "take our stuff for free" strategies before, nothing like this has been done on such a wide scale. As lauded by many critics, the move was pure marketing genius.

But what about the actual music? Is it even any good?

I don't claim to be a sophisticated music reviewer, I just know what I like. And I really like In Rainbows. I was going to list off the tracks I am digging the most, but then realized that they added up to about half of the album. Let's just say I like the slower ones better.

So what are you waiting for? Go get it! It's free!!!!

Or is it?

- e

No comments: