Eliminating the Middlebronfman: Radiohead releases new album online sans music label, pay whatever

Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, will bow Oct. 10 as an independent release – no music cartel involved – and customers get to choose their own price!

“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,” Josh Tyrangiel reports for TIME Magazine.

MacDailyNews Note: You can pay as little £.01 (US$.02) plus £0.45 to cover the credit card handling fee. The album is also available separately as part of a £40 box-set which includes the album on two vinyl records, on CD, another CD with additional songs, lyrics, photos, and artwork.

In Rainbows will be released as a digital download available only via the band’s web site, Radiohead.com. 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 on-line 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,” Tyrangiel reports.

“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,'” Tyrangiel reports.

“While many industry observers speculated that Radiohead might go off-label for its seventh album, it was presumed the band would at least rely on Apple’s iTunes or United Kingdom-based online music store 7digital for distribution. Few suspected the band members had the ambition (or the server capacity) to put an album out on their own. The final decision was apparently made just a few weeks ago, and, when informed of the news on Sunday, several record executives admitted that, despite the rumors, they were stunned. ‘This feels like yet another death knell,’ emailed an A&R executive at a major European label. ‘If the best band in the world doesn’t want a part of us, I’m not sure what’s left for this business,'” Tyrangiel reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: They may not have the server capacity, as the site is extremely slow and/or downright unresponsive. We’ll add news of the format(s) offered and whether DRM is involved when we can get through to find out.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows Website is here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Wealthy Industrialite” for the heads up.]

[Note: MacDailyNews coined the term “Middlebronfman,” a combination of “middleman” and “Bronfman” [Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.], in an article on Monday, October 03, 2005 with the sentence, “Eliminate the middlebronfman.”]


  1. I will eat my shoe if there is any DRM on these files. I’d imagine they will be at least mp3 V0 256kbs, and probably offer a lossless version as well. Either way, I shelled out my $81 USD for it, so I’m not too concerned about what formats they give me to download in. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

  2. I LOVE Radiohead, but I’ve always hated their artsy farsty website.. They make it damn near impossible to navigate and find the things I want to know..

    Name your own price? Hmm.. not sure how that’s gonna go over, although I’ll pay $9.99.

  3. First of all, It’s “ABBA”.

    Second – if this ends up failing, can Radiohead go straight to iTunes with no label? Is Apple prohibited in any way from doing that?

    Either way, it’s a death knell indeed.

  4. It’s all well and good offering it for free (if you choose not to pay) and the credit card handling fee makes sense but how are they paying for the bandwidth? Slow or fast, the site is going to be costing them.

  5. The question for me is not, “How much will people pay?” It’s how many people will download at all. There is a reason why big aggregator stores do better than specialty shops. It is simply more efficient for customers to go to a single destination to obtain multiple items rather than an individual store for each one. This holds true for both brick and mortar and internet sites. I applaud Radiohead, and agree with their conclusions about the need for a record company. They may even be successful with this album because they are one of the first big names to go this route and are getting a lot of publicity. But as this becomes common it will be harder and harder to promote the music and web site for sales. Bands and other performers will find value in cutting distribution deals with the likes of iTunes and Amazon.

  6. “…Second – if this ends up failing,


    It won’t.. Especially for a band like Radiohead..

    They don’t need to make any money on selling albums because they make so much damn money touring.. For new and lesser known artists, a move like this could be suicide. For Radiohead, it’s just great promotion.

  7. OK, it’s October 1st and STILL no release date for Leopard.

    Steve, I’ve got £79 with ’s name on it, just release Leopard dammit!!!!!!!!!!!

    If not, I’m buying Vista Ultimate ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue laugh” style=”border:0;” />

  8. is Radiohead from the UK? I’ve listened to UK artists for over 20 years, and their creativity in music, and now business, seems to be streets ahead of the ‘sheep clones’ in the U.S. The Charlatans UK are doing the same thing.
    Now, a call to action.

    Cut the Middlebronfman!!!!!!

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.