Radiohead lets fans decide price for their newest album

Self-released record is “incredible”

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Photo by Courtesy/Nasty Little Man

Rock band Radiohead recoded their much-anticipated 7th album, “In Rainbows,” released digitally Oct. 10. Fans will pay for the album however much they deem it worth.

In the four years since their last release, Hail to the Thief, the last with label giant EMI, English rock band Radiohead has been composing a massive amount of new material. Live shows have been littered with fresh songs, many of which now comprise their seventh release In Rainbows.

The release of In Rainbows is terribly typical Radiohead. Oct. 1, on Radiohead.com, guitarist Johnny Greenwood made this rather unassuming post: “Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days; We’ve called it In Rainbows. Love from us all.”

This record has been anxiously anticipated for over two years leaving Radiohead fans wondering when the band would be signed to a major label again and distribute the record that many assume has been finished for over a year.

The move to digital release is pure genius. For the past five years any record released by any major label has been leaked onto the Internet about the time advance releases are distributed to newspapers and radio stations. By the actual release of any CD, Internet communities already have been listening to the entire produced record for several weeks. No band or label has been successful thus far in stopping the leak process.

Radiohead’s self-distributed download-only release prevents leakage and puts control back where it belongs — with the band. With plans to distribute through a major label sometime in January, Radiohead is essentially self-leaking their own record, and with a smart marketing campaign, they will even pull in some profit.

Easy-to-find links on Radiohead’s In Rainbows website allows users to navigate to a checkout screen. When selecting the checkout icon, something unexpected happens. The next page asks users to fill in the price they choose to pay for the album. Clicking on a red question mark reveals a simple line: “It’s up to you.” Clicking on another red question mark leads again to the line “No really, It’s up to you.”

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, guitarist Jonny Greenwood said, “It’s fun to make people stop for a few seconds and think about what music is worth, and that’s just an interesting question to ask people.”

Radiohead is breaking trends in the music industry by allowing their fans to pay whatever they want for LP7. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what kind of money Radiohead makes off this endeavor; the much-sought-after band’s live shows bring in all of their revenue.

And as expected, the record is incredible. It has hints of every other record released by the monumental band, but is very fresh and new in its own right. Kid A/Amnesiac-era electronica is evident in “15 Steps,” and OK Computer-like licks fill in the record on songs like “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.”

Radiohead enthusiasts are most excited for the appearance of live favorite “Nude,” finally appearing in recorded form after years of concert play. The song is beautifully produced, giving a new face to the well-known and loved live song.

It will be interesting to see how other bands react to the Radiohead release. Could this be the start of real changes in the music industry, sparked by the brave step of a powerful band to try something new? The scarier question, too, is whether this could be Radiohead’s last record? Time can only tell. For now Radiohead fans must enjoy the existence of the new material, and accept the fact that only such a unique band could pull off such a daring release.

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