Radiohead got everyone’s attention yesterday by announcing that they will sell their new album, “In Rainbows,” directly from their Web site with variable pricing. That means that fans decide what to pay–be it $2, $10, $4.32, or nothing–for the downloadable album.
Like any MP3 downloads, assuming that this is the released format for the album (and we have no reason to believe otherwise), the new songs will be playable on any cell phone that supports music playback. That’s in contrast to music bought from the iTunes Store, Napster, Rhapsody, or any other online music service that uses restrictive Digital Rights Management (DRM) copy protection.
But the greater issue here is that virtually everyone–from music industry analysts to the big labels to the online music stores and consumers at large–will be watching to see what happens. Bands don’t get much bigger and more popular than Radiohead. Whatever goes down as a result of this will likely reverberate through the music industry–including driving another nail in the coffin for the big labels, if the album does well.