I recently read the 2007 New York Times article “Radiohead, Big Enough to Act like a Baby Band.” I was especially intrigued by this story because I hold so much respect for Radiohead already, so I find it interesting when they find their way into the mainstream media. The story discusses the band’s decision to allow fans to name their price for their album “In Rainbows.” It’s an interesting concept and, in my opinion, an extremely intelligent decision. People rarely pay for music these days – and they are especially not getting it in record stores anymore. They are buying or pirating music online and Radiohead chose to appeal to that market.

Radiohead has such a loyal fanbase that they can afford to act like a “baby band,” or one that is trying to make it big by offering consumers music and merchandise for little to no cost – a good way to get their sound out there. As the article states:

Without a label or a fixed price, and not quantifying its sales for pop charts, “In Rainbows” is selling copies, being avidly played and making the world pay attention.

This is a genius business decision that matches their genius sound. Radiohead was playing stuff off “In Rainbows” before the album was even completed, during their 2006 tour. Sure, you could pre-order the $80 package complete with bonus tracks, vinyls, and merchandise, but you could also purchase all 10 tracks at good quality for 90 cents. Radiohead recognizes that if people want to, they can easily get recorded music for free online. It really comes down to the music, and if people are willing to pay for it, they will.

Another snippet from the story reads:

The fact that fans have paid to get “In Rainbows” is a measure of their eagerness to keep Radiohead writing songs. And the deeper underlying reality is that fans have always set the value of music. They are the ones to decide, yes or no, to buy an album, a single or a concert ticket at the available price. Radiohead’s digital-era flexibility allows more supporters to make themselves known.

It’s refreshing to know that some artists out there are most concerned with their music and their fans, which is what seems to be the underlying motivation for Radiohead to be acting the way they are.

Although, Radiohead just released their newest album this year, “King of Limbs” and they did not present the same offer to fans. Perhaps the four year gap has kept fans eager and waiting for new music, therefore making them willing to pay for the album in full. It’s definitely not for lack of functionality – “In Rainbows” was incredibly successful. It’s something I have contemplated and speculated on, but cannot seem to come up with a solid answer.