Why I bought the Radiohead album

R A D I O H E A D

Before today, I hadn’t bought an album (DVD, CD, tape, record, 8-track, etc.) for the last 5 years and now that I think about it, it might have been more like 9 years ago–when I bought Radiohead’s OK COMPUTER. Don’t go jumping to conclusions based on this confession. I haven’t been illegally downloading music either.

I had a large 200+ CD collection prior to the MP3 revolution. I ripped those years ago and now they are packed away in my parents attic. Maybe I’ll put them out at family occasions in 20 years for laughs. However, that CD collection gave me a sizable MP3 collection, though it wasn’t growing with the times.

Around the year 2000, I stopped buying CDs altogether. At that time, I discovered the growing number of online radio stations. It was at that point, when I gave up on “owning” music. I could legally and guiltlessly listen to just about any music that I wanted to: new, old, those that I know well and those that I’m discovering for the first time.

At that time, I had no MP3 player and everywhere that I was on a computer, I had an Internet connection. With that in mind, why buy? Times have changed though. I got my own MP3 player a little more than a year ago and I’m hooked. I primarily listen to podcasts, but I also like to flip through my music collection (most of which fits on the player) occasionally. Internet radio no longer serves my purposes.

However, I still refused to buy MP3’s online. The DRM (digital rights management) got in the way of my moving files around to multiple computers and even multiple MP3 players (I use one just for the family stereo–mostly children’s songs these days). When I first got onto iTunes, I was excited to buy music. I tested the waters with one of their free downloads and it took me a while to figure out how to get the damned thing on my player. DRM got in the way. I decided not to buy anything from iTunes, though I had (and still have) a $15 gift card collecting dust on my desk.

With iTunes now selling un-DRM’ed tracks, I might venture back. The problem is that I still see iTunes as part of the problem. Their proprietary files and services are walling me in and restricting my ability to interact with the content. This is not just true of music, but video and podcasts as well. Not to mention that the iTunes store is really a hulking mess of software that eats my memory and takes forever to complete tasks in (and I won’t even mention the awful library functions—oops, I just did).

This is where I finally get to the new Radiohead album In Rainbows (linked to in the title). There has been plenty about this in the media (at least tech-media), but you might not have seen too much about it. They are a popular group with a very large fan-base and they decided to forgo the music companies and even the might iTunes store and sell their album on their site WITHOUT DRM. This isn’t so surprising, but what is is that they let the buyer choose their price. Buyer could choose to pay nothing for the album (45p processing fee though). I really hope that this is the direction that media will be going in. I’d even be in favor of sliding scales depending on sales volume (low demand, low price; high demand high price).

So, did I buy the album because I wanted another folder on my computer full of music? NO. I bought the album because I want to support the movement. Actually, I probably paid too much, though a lot less than an (legal) album in Korea.

Now, I want to address the recent “controversy” over the possible reasons for releasing and the quality of the album. MTV news (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1571737/20071011/radiohead.jhtml) reports that people are upset because of the 160 kbps bit rate. Give me a break! iTunes is at 128kbps and sells songs for much more than you can potentially buy them here. Even with their new DRM-free songs at 256kbps, what’s really the difference? I haven’t owned speakers bigger than those next to my computer for years. Might I hear the difference otherwise, possibly, but all of my listening in either on my computer, MP3 player, or in a car…..NO DIFFERENCE!

The article also bring up possible statements by their management saying that this was a way of helping them sell CD’s….GREAT! Good for them. I love the effort. I hope they sell lots. However, they never would have sold one to me had it not been for this move.

Overall it’s good for the fans and good for the industry as a whole (maybe not the big guys–change or die fellas)

By-the-way, I just finished listening to the album near the end of this post. It’s really good as a whole. If I were to buy it song by song, I probably would have only taken 3 or 4 of them. With that in mind, maybe 2-3 pounds would be a good price to pay.

Dan

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