Pay What You Want Albums: Good for the Music Biz?

Last Updated Oct 10, 2007 12:45 PM EDT

in-rainbows.jpgToday Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows, and part of it is absolutely free to download. Fans can pay whatever they want for eight tracks -- a penny, ten dollars, or even nothing at all; whatever they decide the album's worth. Bryce Edge, one of the band's managers, believes fans will be willing to pay for the tracks, whether they have to or not. He told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat:
"We're prepared to take a risk and we might come out looking very foolish. But we believe if your music is great, then people will pay for it."
Furthermore, another manager added that some people who aren't fans are forking over a little cash just to celebrate the brilliant idea.

And brilliant it seems indeed. Regardless of piracy laws, people are getting their music for free -- not all, but many. If Radiohead is successful -- if they convert even non-fans into fans by taking a risk and letting the public determine the value of their work -- could this herald a shift in the way the music industry does business?

Other artists are already following suit. Nine Inch Nails ditched its record label, freeing itself of the associated restrictions.

"I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate."
Tech Dirt's Mike Masnick commented that giving music away for free is only one part of the new business model; the music may be free, but concerts and merchandise aren't. And if free music creates new fans, that means more revenue from shows and stuff. As Alan McGee from Oasis and the Charlatans said:
"We increase our fan base, we sell more merchandise, more fans talk about the band and we get more advertising and more films (soundtracks). More people will get into the the Charlatans and will probably pay the money to see the show. I presume it will double the gig traffic, maybe even treble it."
As Masnick pointed out, the music industry isn't dying; just the record labels. What do you think of the shift? Will it makes cent$ in the end?

(In Rainbows image by OctopusHat)