There are quite a few twists to the story of the new Radiohead album that broke on the band's website last night . One that is getting very little attention is the terrible name of the album: In Rainbows.
But here are a couple others:
1. Journalists won't get advance copies or early access. They get their music when you get your music.
2. That box set is $80! It's real – It's not just a dozen files on your computer. And yeah there's double vinyl… But that is steep – even Bjork's seemingly endless supply of CD & DVD box sets seldom run that much.
3. When the “real” CD comes out sometime next year – the one that you can buy at your local music store (Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Starbucks) – it'll probably still be on a major label. Rather than an admission that the majors still have a lot of sway, this could end up being just another kick at their floundering business model. By the time that jewel-box hits the shelf, who will be left to buy it? Radiohead will make out like bandits: They'll get a big up-front advance, and not have to make any promises to deliver future albums to that label. The deal will also likely only be a license which means they will retain the permanent rights to the album, and will get it back in a few years (and maybe even sell it to the highest bidding labels in other markets as well. Japan, Australia, Europe… it adds up). When the license expires (5 years – maybe less?), they can license it again for another advance, print up some themselves, do whatever they want. That's a lot of hurdles for any label to overcome. But because the band is who they are, someone's going to cough up a lot of cash to try it. And that's after Radiohead will have been selling it on their own three months or more.
4. Who thinks the move is smart? Business Week for one. No analysis yet from Financial Times or Wall Street Journal, but I'm betting they'll agree with Business Week.
Just last week there was a lot of talk that Amazon's relatively cheap, high quality, un-DRM'ed MP3s would be a watershed moment of the music industry. Well, here's another: they come fast and furious these days.