The walls are coming down

Yesterday marked what I think will be a turning point in the whole digital music market. Radiohead, on their own, released their latest album, In Rainbows. They have a package you can buy that consists of 2 heavyweight vinyl records, a CD of the album, an enhanced CD with bonus tracks, booklets with artwork and digital downloads that goes for about $80. In addition, they have digital downloads of the album, in DRM-free 160 kps MP3. For those digital downloads, you pay whatever price you think is fair.

That’s right, you pay what YOU think is fair. If that means you want to download it for free, so be it.

It’s an honor system and I think it’s wonderful. If you think that it should be worth $10, or $5, or $1, then that’s what you pay. When you consider that in a typical record company released CD, the artist only makes about 75 cents or less per disc, then this means that more money is going into Radiohead’s pocket. If they go digital, there is no manufacturing costs. Just bandwidth, and bandwidth is cheap.

No middleman, music straight from the artist to me, and I pay what I want. This absolutely rocks. If you think this is isolated and will never work, I think you’ll be surprised. Already Oasis, Jamiroquai, Nine Inch Nails and Madonna have all expressed similar interests. In fact, I’m VERY excited to see what Trent Reznor has up his sleeve now that he’s free of his record label. So, if you like the thought of this, PLEASE download the album and pay what you feel is right. Let’s support an artist who thinks this way. Personally, I’m not a huge Radiohead fan, but I’ll be downloading it and paying for it myself.

Now on the same day, I read Ian Roger’s blog on helping to rid the consumer of DRM. You need to read that post. It is simply logical and brilliant. His views are significant since Ian runs Yahoo Music. Here is one particular paragraph that struck me.

When you compare the experiences on Yahoo! Music, the order of magnitude difference in opportunity shouldn’t be a surprise: Want radio? No problem. Click play, get radio. Want video? Awesome. Click play, get video. Want a track on-demand? Oh have we got a deal for you! If you’re on Windows XP or Vista, and you’re in North America, just download this 20MB application, go through these seven install screens, reboot your computer, go through these five setup screens, these six credit card screens, give us $160 dollars and POW! Now you can hear that song you wanted to hear…if you’re still with us. Yahoo! didn’t want to go through all these steps. The licensing dictated it.

Ian gets it. He realizes that bogging me down with DRM is bad for me and a crappy experience. Bravo. In fact, this sentence gives me such hope:

f the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience.

Fuck yeah. These are great times people, the walls are coming down…