Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”: The Newfound Art of Keeping a Secret

inrainbows1.gifRadiohead: new album In Rainbows, out in (no joke) ten days, according to this Pitchfork, er, report. Dig deeper into official site (linked on the title above) and we see that they’re offering the album as a download on Oct. 10, with physical release on Dec. 3. Whatever you think of Radiohead, this is an ingenious maneuver, and as of-course logical as Kanye vs. 50. If they’d managed to get the thing in stores within a week and a half of first announcement it would be the coup of the year, biz-wise, but in any case it still makes me wonder what it might mean in terms of lead time/distribution for major albums in the future. In any case, it’s very exciting. The track list is after the jump.


Note that the words “Capitol” and “EMI” appear nowhere on the Radiohead site. Looks like it’s self-released, though if anyone knows better, hit us up in the comments. There will apparently be extras in what they refer to as the “discbox,” which knowing the R-head fanatic-base means a lot of folks will probably be purchasing it twice–sorry, didn’t read closely enough: the physical package is 40 GB pounds, larded with goodies, and the download is priced-as-you-wish. Damn.

R A D I O H E A D []

  • Chris Molanphy

    How to Reappear Completely.

  • Zach Isso

    Axl Rose should take this idea.

  • DeeW

    As a download in 10 days?

    But Radiohead is only available as download on 7Digital and Amazon Mp3, right?

    So, does this mean that I can get the R’Head album for $9/DRM-free?! Yes or No? I don’t understand!

    *Head Explodes/Vomits*

  • sparkletone

    For the record:

    The Download, the first CD and the first vinyl disc are all equivalent in terms of tracklisting. The download doesn’t include the extra CD/LP which includes the following songs:

    MK 1
    MK 2

    The Discbox includes a download, if that wasn’t clear, and they’re not charging shipping on the Discbox, which makes it more palatable to those of us spending weak, weak dollars.

    I’m excited. Assuming the download is in not-poopy quality, etc. … This will be quite the coup for them. They’ve managed to turn release day into something special for once (since Oct. 10th pretty much has to be before CDs go out for duplication), solved the problem of what to do with all the extra songs without doing another Amnesiac style followup (which many people don’t seem to like), and on and on.

    Good on them, on any number of levels.

    Now we just get to wait and see if the music was worth the wait?

  • sparkletone


    Radiohead appear to be selling this themselves using the framework they’ve got with W.A.S.T.E..

    Presumably, the download will be DRM-free (I mean, what are they going to use DRM-wise if they’re doing this themselves). The quality of the files remains to be seen, as does whether or not the download includes artwork or anything.

  • blobby

    If this whole

  • blobby

    If this pay-whatever-you-want-for-the-download thing catches on, then I am going to have to agree with Pitchfork’s typically levelheaded assessment: “The entire recording industry is so fucked!”

  • CharlesRockyPamplin

    @Halfwit: it’s a case of markets; In the US, absolutely, a band of reasonable stature can make money touring. but elsewhere, it’s not so; in the UK & many parts of Europe, for example, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll make a loss.

    the idea that everyone has to compete on the road for dollars, and their music is just an analogue to that is kind of reductivist, and makes me uncomfortable. everyone becomes Metallica (who do exactly that).

    plus, when you reduce it to pure economics (which a lot of promoters do), there’s a huge difference between say, The Black Lips, who could pretty much put on a show anywhere, versus Joanna Newsom, who needed a big production to tour her last record. who would be cheaper to book? it kills the idea of interesting, adventurous music being able to exist and/or compete…

  • Maura Johnston

    Wow. Wow! This is crazy, great news. (Thanks for catching it while I was drowning my Mets-related sorrows in tater tots, Matos.)

  • Maura Johnston

    @maura: Damn, I wish I’d used the phrase “wank mining” in that comment somehow. Oh well.

  • CloudCarrier

    What about the rest of us single-disc losers who’d like to not pay out the nose for a physical copy? I know they’ll probably release a 1 or 2 disc after the calender page turns, probably to discourage people buying mass quantities and gouging in-store, but c’mon, three months? I guess I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear any of this until after thanksgiving…

  • The Van Buren Boys

    This is crazy. Radiohead has gotten to the point where they are basically saying, “You know what? We’re Radiohead. We can do whatever the fuck we want and people will love it.” They realize that their hardcore fans will still pay for the whole “disc box” while their more casual fans will be able to download it for essentially any price. They realize that even if they don’t make a whole lot on sales, they can tour and clean up. This way they don’t have to deal with the bullshit from the record labels.

    Also, that sound your hearing the sound of the major label executives’ jaws dropping while they shit themselves.

  • sparkletone


    The second intro page on the In Rainbows says, “So far, it is only available from this website.” (emph. mine). My theory is that in the next week or two they’ll announce a deal with XL or someone to get a one-disc version into stores.

    When asked about going purely-digital in 2006, they said they were shying away from it because they were concerned about people in places with bad/no internet connectivity. The download is for the Internets in general, and the Discbox is clearly for the collectors/super fans. However, there’s that gap in the middle that means they probably want to get the proper album in stores too.

  • sparkletone

    (And if it’s not clear, by “deal with XL or someone” I mean a one-album sort of thing like with The Eraser that just takes care of getting the album into regular old stores.)

  • janine

    Look, I’m not trying to be argumentative or anything, but I feel somewhat passed over. I missed the meeting. Why is is okay to not pay for music? Is it because the technology allows? Is there an ethical argument or is it a case of the horse simply being out of the barn? I feel so out of it…

  • janine

    …actually, just ignore Grandma Nee-Nee. I’ll be over here winding up my Victrola!

  • coreyander

    I can’t believe they hit us with the ethical quandary of having to decide how much to pay for their new album. At least I have ten days to think about it.

  • Andy Beta

    While the main response from Pfork and the like is about how “the recording industry is fucked,” this also takes the press/ PR/ critics right out of the equation. Rather than being comfortable in our peculiar heirarchy or promotional consideration, to where we know well in advance what’s coming down the tubes, we now have to queue up just like anybody else.

  • Halfwit

    @CharlesRockyPamplin: I can agree that Joanna Newsome has greater production costs on the road than Black Lips, but even so, I greatly doubt that she is funding her tours based on her current CD sales or the generosity of concert promoters. I support the Deftones approach (which may, in fact, just be a variation on the Metallica approach that you’re afraid of), whereby the CD is really just an advertisement for the show. I mean, they (Deftones) had… MAYBE on platinum album in the states, and I doubt they were selling dramatically larger figures elsewhere, yet they manage to sell out massive shows — with I might add, the elabroate stagecraft that metal demands.

  • CloudCarrier

    @sparkletone: After catching my breath, I realized that the space between hearing the new record and holding it in my hands won’t be any different than the last animal collective record, i.e. downloaded three/four months before the physical street date, just like any other record currently released by a major or minor label with extended brick n’ mortar distribution (and the appropriate means to be leaked). So, with the exclusion of the “pay what you want” scenario (your tanya donnellys of the world call it a “tip jar”), nothing, I guess, has changed. Thanks, Radiohead!

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    It’s definitely the smartest way a major band has come up with to deal with leak culture. The more I think about it the more brilliant it seems to me.

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    I should also note that when I wrote “er, report” all that Pfork had up was a bunch of “aaaahhhh”s. That’s changed and the implied cocked eyebrow no longer applies. Sorry, Amy.

  • Anonymous

    I think Radiohead are doing some monumental here, but some people say if they had Radiohead’s money, they wouldn’t care about sales either. There’s a poll on about this new Radiohead move, check it out.

  • CharlesRockyPamplin

    @Halfwit: we’ll just have to agree to disagree. i buy records on the merit of the music, rather than it being some sort of second best to a badly mixed, out of tune bludgenoning of the songs in some cavernous arena where i can’t see a fucking thing anyway.

    call me old fashioned, i guess, i’m just not that ‘into’ gigs…

  • Anonymous

    I have listed out all the ordering details here in an easy to refer article at []

    Significantly, this is not an option for every band, but if all the superstar-bands that actually benefited from the old system to get to where they are, are now subsequently deciding to go totally “indie” where are the major labels going to find the mega-revenues that used to subsidize the rest of the money-losing acts in their stable?

  • CharlesRockyPamplin

    @Matos: Both a completely brilliant move and a scary one.

    Radiohead know, as do most of the forward thinking industry people, that the big money is no longer in records but in touring. Radiohead can essentially give a record away, take the hit, then make more money onstage.

    on the other hand, this makes me worried for for the ‘worth’ of music in general. I grew up in the Home Taping era. i taped off the radio, from Library records, got comps from friends, etc etc. if there was something i liked, i went out and bought it. i can pretty much (and do) d’l anything i want for free. I still buy records, but more through the implied contract i have with an artist than anything.

    Behemoths like Radiohead can stick out a record that you pay nothing for, then make their money in the arenas- fine. But it’s worrying that actual recorded music is becoming worthless; the mechanical reproduction of it in the live arena has arguably little to do with hearing the music itself, but more that, (as Billy Graham sorta said) ‘ you’re paying to be in the prescence of the artist’.

    I’d hate to see rock/alt/whatever music go the way of Jazz, or Classical; the audience for the new stuff shrinks, and and the only people who can make money are the ones who can belt out “Paranoid android’ in a convincing Pop Idol style…

  • Halfwit

    @CharlesRockyPamplin: I think your basic concerns are misplaced here, CRP. I mean, look at the artists that idolator talks about/champions (aside from Kanye and Weezy). We’re talking bands that spent, maybe, $100,000 on the recording of their albums… who, maybe, go silver in terms of sales — yet they’re able to make enough through touring (even club touring) to quit their day jobs and pay for rent, if not a mortgage.

    I mean, honestly… over the course of their entire career, Sonic Youth has sold — what, 2 million CDs worldwide? The recorded music is valueless (aside from the costs of production); “paying to be in the presence of the artist: has been the main source of personal revenue for musicians forever. This shouldn’t have an impact on that.

    Alt music will never go the way of classical music, simply because the cost of entry will never get that high. A $200 electric guitar from a pawn shop and enough patience to learn to play along with your CDs (or mp3s) are all you need to at least get started.

  • Halfwit

    … heck, in 2007, you don’t even need the guitar. You can probably create your first album just using the computer in your cubicle.

  • Ned Raggett

    It’s interesting that there were still all the rumors going around before this blindsided everyone — coincedence or carefully placed chatter? The leak of the future might be for announcements like these.