It really wasn’t a surprise that Radiohead’s 8th studio album ‘The King of Limbs’ would be available as a direct download from their website, or that they would move away the “Pay what you want” pricing of 2007’s ‘In Rainbows’. They’ve never really revealed what the average price that people selected to pay, except to admit that the amount of downloads that occurred through Torrent sites probably eclipsed their 3 million total album sales across all of the available formats.
What was surprising was the speed at which the events took place this week. On Monday, Feb 14, Radiohead fans worldwide spontaneously wet themselves as the band announced that the digital download would be available on Saturday Feb 19 at a cost of $9 for the MP3s and $14 for the WAV files. A release described as a ‘newspaper album’ costing $48 would follow on March 28 that includes the digital download, 2 10 inch vinyl records, a CD and large sheets of artwork, 625 smaller pieces all packaged within a sheet of oxo-degradable plastic.
In one more surprise move (which no doubt was planned all along) the album was made available on Radiohead’s website a day early (Friday, February 18). Except for one brief error on the site, the experience was seamless. There were no issues on with the payment process and the 89MB quickly downloaded to my computer and unzipped. And there was much rejoicing in my brain.
As someone who has been buying albums since the early 70s, I am always excited to get my hands on an artists brand new work. Its the exact same way today, even though the instant gratification of a digital download or a ‘leaked’ album beats out traveling to my local record store or mall chain, not to mention the excitement of reading and reacting to the thousands of posts, tweets and blog reviews. NPR organized a last-minute listening party on their site using Toronto’s ScribbleLive chat technology, providing a great shared experience as listeners left their comments and impressions as they experienced Radiohead’s new music as a group.
Oh and by the way, the album is pretty good – layers of distorted instrumentation and electronics, offbeat rhythms, Thom Yorke’s soaring falsetto are all represented here. Early favorites to my ears are ‘Lotus Flower’, ‘Codex’ and ‘Give Up The Ghost’.