Radiohead Album Price Tag: ‘It’s Up to You’

NYT Blogs

How much would you pay for the next Radiohead album, “In Rainbow”? This is not a trick question: Your answer will be as binding as a dictator’s edict.

“IT’S UP TO YOU,” the rock band’s site informs customers pre-ordering the digital download, which will be available Oct. 10. Doubters get a second assurance: “NO REALLY. IT’S UP TO YOU.”

As proof, the order form’s section for price is blank — and it will accept the lowest possible amount for the site: One British penny (about two American cents). After a perfunctory credit-card charge, Radiohead, one of the most popular and innovative rock bands of the past two decades, will gladly hand over a copy of the whole album for less than a dollar, PC World concluded in an article noting that Apple’s iTunes Music Store was left out of this deal.

There is no maximum price, nor any other guidance, setting up what is may be the biggest experiment in digital-era music-industry pricing to date. What are people willing to pay for music? How many will pay full price? How will the average price compare to what a typical record company would likely have charged? Will people pirate it anyway?

The article continues sensibly, and I think correctly. What I find most intriguing is:

  1. whether the media will declare the experiment a failure regardless of success criteria?
  2. the spectrum of purchasing intentions declared in the comments

The latter include:

  • I’m paying $10. Happily.
  • I’ll gladly pay $0.99/track to download it now. And I’ll purchase it again with the album art later. And I’d pay more if they asked. And I wouldn’t do that for any other band on the planet.
  • 6-8 bucks. Major, major props to Radiohead. But I already knew they were cool.
  • I’ll pay $10, just like I do for the records I buy from iTunes. Anything less than that feels like stealing.
  • 2 cents. Anyone who would pay more for what the seller would gladly sell you for less is, frankly, an idiot.
  • I’ll pay a token dollar to download it. If it’s as good as I hope, I’ll probably wind up buying the fancy boxed set later, as they usually have terrific artwork and clever additions with their special packages.
  • For me it kinda depends on the number of tracks but I think between 10 and 15 dollars is a reasonable sum.
  • Also I find a happy note (unusual for Radiohead nowadays 🙂) :-

    This article makes it seem as if 1 pence is the lowest price you can pay for the album. That’s not the case – you can pay nothing. By paying anything above 0, you incur a 45 pence (~$1) charge. But you can simply type in 0 pounds, 0 pence, and still get it.

    Which I believe is entirely the right way to go about it.

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