Posted on | October 2, 2007 | 1 Comment
Radiohead announced that fans will get to pay what they want, if they want for the upcoming album In Rainbows due out on October 10 (which happens to be my birth day!).
What Radiohead is going to do comes very close to what free software authors have been doing with our products for years. We make stuff that is completely free and give it away. Free to download, use and share, not just free as in cost-less. Many of us make money from making things free, we find creative ways to package our stuff (such as nice printed manuals, boxed sets with lots of programs, customizing it, etc). Radiohead is going to make some really nice boxed sets that contain the new album on CD (its release will be high quality .MP3) as well as other things related to the album that they can sell.
Some people are arguing that moves like this by recording artists will drastically cut the value of music as a whole. Value comes in more forms than money. We value our parents, our children, our hobbies, we also value our culture of which music is a significant contributor. Intellectual Property is a mirage, a misnomer, a ghost that we have been chasing with bad (and far reaching) effects on our culture. I would really like to meet someone who was solely responsible for shaping their intellect, such a person would be quite remarkable as they would have been born on a deserted island with no parents or human contact. If I met such a person, I would happily agree that they owned the rights to their primitive grunts and tools 100%, minus the influence of the birds or other animals that were on the island with them.
What remains as a tool for artists, software authors, writers and everyone else who needs to retain some degree of control over a creative work is our copyright. While money persists, so will copyright, I don’t think that we’ll ever see a world with no creative people. This means that we can license our works as we see fit and control their distribution to a degree. When a creative work is designed to influence culture to any degree (created for that purpose) it must be made free, or we have to pay for our culture. Not everyone in the world (or even the US or UK) can afford the price of a CD. The lawsuits surrounding the recording industry have gotten way out of hand.
Moves like this tell me that the recording industry just might finally get what millions of people have been trying to tell them for years, we’re not going to pay for our culture, find other ways of profiting, they exist. Way back when, recording artists had to actually write good music and tour often to make money. I’d like to see us return to that.
if you like sort of progressive rock with twists of grunge roots and even a hint of jazz, download their new release. If you like the release, consider buying some of the really nice merchandise that they have planned. Observe their copyright and make them happy that they tried this. I’m really, really happy to learn about their decision.