Yup, Radiohead has a new album, but the real news is that they’ll offering it first and foremost on their website. Labels and stores be damned! While this certainly isn’t the first time a major artist has eschewed the traditional avenues of record selling (Prince!), it does mark the first time a major artist has allowed it’s fans to state their own price, so In Rainbows is certainly breaking some barriers.
The art rock darlings are no longer tied to a record label, so there’s no bevy of suits telling them not to price their all-inclusive box set version at lower than $80 dollars or so, and there’s certainly no one to scream and yell about letting fans choose their own price for the digital download version. While asking people to pick how much they think your album is worth might strike some as a sure fire way to lose money, there’s an established psychology behind the choice, and most people will gravitate towards actually paying more than the base or recommended minimum price.
Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner wrote a great piece on the phenomenon last year, as Jane Siberry has used fan-set variable pricing for some time now. In fact, record lablel Magnatune Records uses the format for nearly every release in their catalog.