Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want (free music)

{Update} Nine Inch Nails, Oasis, Jamiroquai and now Madonna have dumped their record labels. The only real question now is how fast will the music industry model come tumbling down.

Roughly 12,000 albums are released in an average year, so the announcement late Sunday night that the new Radiohead record, In Rainbows, will be out Oct. 10 is not itself big news. Sure, Radiohead is on a sustained run as the most interesting and innovative band in rock, but what makes In Rainbows important — easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business — are its record label and its retail price: there is none, and there is none.

In Rainbows will be released as a digital download available only via the band's web site, There's no label or distribution partner to cut into the band's profits — but then there may not be any profits. Drop In Rainbows' 15 songs into the online checkout basket and a question mark pops up where the price would normally be. Click it, and the prompt "It's Up To You" appears. Click again and it refreshes with the words "It's Really Up To You" — and really, it is. It's the first major album whose price is determined by what individual consumers want to pay for it. And it's perfectly acceptable to pay nothing at all.

Radiohead's contract with EMI/Capitol expired after its last record, Hail to the Thief, was released in 2003; shortly before the band started writing new songs, singer Thom Yorke told TIME, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model." On Sunday night, guitarist Jonny Greenwood took to Radiohead's Dead Air Space blog and nonchalantly announced, "Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in 10 days. We've called it In Rainbows. Love from us all."


Read Download the Album

More Post From The Web