A Couple More Radiohead Pricing Articles

Lynne Kiesling

Today sees a couple more articles about Radiohead’s decision to sell their album online, at prices determined by the buyer. This New York Times article highlights one thing that I find interesting: letting the radio listeners themselves determine which songs off the album should be considered the “hit singles”:

The Radiohead camp has been reluctant to add to the hype surrounding the album, which has been stoked by breathless blog posts and e-mail exchanges for the past week. Bryce Edge, who manages the band with Chris Hufford of Courtyard Management, stressed that the band’s tip-jar-style tactic “is not a prescription for the industry.” …

Mr. Edge summed up the pricing pandemonium simply: “Digital technology has reintroduced the age of the troubadour. You are worth what people are prepared to give you in the digital age because they can get it for nothing.”

In another departure from convention, the band declined to send out early copies of the music for reviewers and has not settled on a traditional single to push to radio stations. As a result, programmers are improvising. In San Francisco, for instance, the rock station KITS-FM, Live 105, has the entire album on its Web site (live105.com) and will let fans vote to determine which songs merit airplay.

“We just want to be involved in it,” said Dave Numme, the station’s program director. “We just want to reflect what’s going on out there and give our listeners a chance to tell us what they think of it.”

This Bloomberg article asks whether the music’s any good:

Radiohead is open to charges that it has been forced down the Internet route because the band needs the publicity or can’t sell its music any other way. Which raises the question, is “In Rainbows” any good, at any price? …

It is downbeat, depressing and a relatively rewarding rock experience, all at once. …

As a single-sentence assessment, one could say this: Radiohead is near the peak of its powers and this is its best effort in a decade, since “OK Computer,” which is regularly voted by critics as among the best rock albums of all time. …

Not that this is necessarily saying much. For one thing (and this is a rock heresy rarely spoken), time has shown us that the 1997 album is less than the ground-breaking masterpiece it was originally acclaimed to be. For another, the albums in between saw the band veer off at an experimental tangent. “Kid A,” “Amnesiac” and “Hail to the Thief” were Alternative Rock with a capital A, and varied from the strangely successful (“Pyramid Song”) to pretentious (“Sit Down. Stand Up.”)

I’m not a big Radiohead fan (I’ve got OK Computer and Amnesiac, but I never choose to listen to them, there’s so much stuff out there that I like better), but I am intrigued by this experiment.

By the way, music sold by Magnatune are priced this way, to a point: you pick the price, with a price floor of $5, but you can pay more if you choose. They find that many people do.

One thought on “A Couple More Radiohead Pricing Articles

  1. “OK Computer,” which is regularly voted by critics as among the best rock albums of all time…”

    I think Radiohead is… OK… but the notion that ‘OK Computer’ is a classic baffles me. Frankly I thought it sucked in a major way.

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