OK Computer: What is this CD worth?

One thing you have to say about the changing business model for the music industry: It gets people talking! My post a while back about how this change is bringing musicians back to their “roots” as street corner buskers generated a lot of great comments. This post on the Freakonomics blog last month has generated 81 comments and counting! Now Radiohead, the popular alternative (oxymoron?) recording act has upped the ante, and in doing so has kicked discussion into high gear. They’re asking fans to determine the cost of their new downloadable CD.

According to this piece in Music News, Radiohead is releasing their DRM-free CD online and letting fans determine its monetary worth:

Radiohead said its seventh studio album “In Rainbows” would be available from Radiohead.com from October 10 in MP3 format, meaning it can be played on all digital devices. In the latest twist in the move to digital music, fans can choose how much to pay, or can pay nothing if they prefer.

If this scares you, you’re probably a record label, or some other member of the entrenched (many would say hidebound) music industry. Conversely, if you’re smiling, you’re probably like me: A fascinated observer of how technology is shattering pricing constraints and distribution barriers between artists and those who appreciate them. And did I mention I’m also a huge Radiohead fan? My smile just grew into broad grin.

Maybe, as a show of support, I’ll pay more than the cost of their physical CD (which will be distributed through conventional channels).

For instance, I might pay as much as I’ve ever paid for one of those glorified coasters. I’m guessing that was $18, ponied up sometime in the late 1990s. The CD that 18 bucks got me was, I’m sure, packaged in a crack-prone jewel case, and came complete with booklet featuring unreadable mousetype lyrics and liner notes. I’ll certainly miss that royal treatment.

For once I’ll be opening my wallet without feeling fleeced. That sounds pretty terrific.

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