Radiohead Sells Album Directly to Fans

Posted on October 1, 2007

Radiohead has shocked the music industry with its decision to sell its new album directly from its website. Radiohead's next album called In Rainbows is available as a digital download from The band is letting fans name their own price for downloading the album. Time talked to several record execs who were stunned by the news.

While many industry observers speculated that Radiohead might go off-label for its seventh album, it was presumed the band would at least rely on Apple's iTunes or United Kingdom-based online music store 7digital for distribution. Few suspected the band members had the ambition (or the server capacity) to put an album out on their own. The final decision was apparently made just a few weeks ago, and, when informed of the news on Sunday, several record executives admitted that, despite the rumors, they were stunned. "This feels like yet another death knell," emailed an A&R executive at a major European label. "If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business."

Labels can still be influential and profitable by focusing on younger acts that need their muscle to get radio play and placement in record stores � but only if the music itself remains a saleable commodity. "That's the interesting part of all this," says a producer who works primarily with American rap artists. "Radiohead is the best band in the world; if you can pay whatever you want for music by the best band in the world, why would you pay $13 dollars or $.99 cents for music by somebody less talented? Once you open that door and start giving music away legally, I'm not sure there's any going back."

If this works out well for Radiohead it could encourage other artists. To be able to do this artists would either need pre-existing fame or they would have to build it over the Internet. Bands that make a lot of money from touring might find it easier to also sell their records in-house because they can more easily afford any associated Internet hosting and marketing expenses.

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