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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
What is Radiohead's album worth?
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Radiohead have let fans name their price for new album - but is In Rainbows worth paying for?

Screen grab from Radiohead website
Radiohead fans could enter any amount for the album, up to 99.99
I ordered the Radiohead download twice. The first time, I paid precisely 0.00 - for research purposes, just to see if it could be done.

And it could - the ordering process skipped the credit card section and went straight to the confirmation screen.

But soon my conscience was nagging me to be a bit more equitable and give them a fair price - I was going to listen to, and hopefully enjoy, the album after all.

I remember the old-fashioned pre-download days when you couldn't get anything and everything for free - and the argument about the band, and others, needing to get paid instilled a sense of guilt.

But what is a fair price? I decided on 9.82 because that, I remembered reading, was the average price paid for a CD in the UK in 2006.

In fact, I got it wrong - it should have been 8.92. No matter - I'll just deduct 90p next time.

Radiohead singer Thom Yorke

Instructions for both downloads arrived in my inbox first thing this morning and the process was smooth and quick.

The e-mail contained a link that automatically started the download, taking a few minutes before the songs popped up in a zip file. Simple.

So what of the songs. Are they worth 9.82 - or 0.00?

In Rainbows is Radiohead's seventh studio album, and the style has not changed much from their last three - Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief.

It has lots of sparse beats, incomprehensible wailing and dreamy orchestration, and not much in the way of wailing guitars, emotional punch or, well, good tunes.

Like their last three albums (and Thom Yorke's solo work), I will probably listen to it a few times, feel that there must be some greater artistic excellence that I'm not fully appreciating, then forget about it.

Stuck in a rut

I remember being unsure about OK Computer at first, before finally realising it was brilliant after a good half-dozen listens.

But this feels like it has less substance to worm its way into your life.

I thought Radiohead were supposed to be the masters of invention and innovation, but they seem to have been stuck in the same creative rut for a bit too long now.

I am drastically revising my views on the value of this album. But unfortunately, there is not a facility on Radiohead's website to claim a refund if you think you have overpaid.

Radiohead album screen grab
Is it a one-off gimmick, or the future of the music industry?
Knowing what I know now, that the album isn't actually a stunning return to form and that I'll only listen to it a few times, I would probably cut my 9.82 in half.

And actually, I may have been a bit foolish thinking that was a fair price in the first place because Radiohead, of course, don't have all the record company people to pay, nor do they have to press up and send out any CDs.

They don't have a record company at all after their deal with EMI ran out - so will take much more of my money than they would have done under a traditional deal.

The record company signed the band in the first place, developed them and brought them to our attention.

So maybe I should have paid 4.91 to Radiohead and sent a cheque for the other half to EMI for its part in Radiohead's career, and to pay for finding the next Radiohead.

But really, who's going to do that?

Too powerful?

If more major bands wield their newfound power in the way Radiohead have, punters will get used to paying 0.00, or even 4.91, for an official release.

Prices of other albums will start to seem very steep, and record companies and record shops will be in even deeper trouble than they are now.

I can only imagine Radiohead doing something like this. God bless them!
Daniel Levy

Radiohead's pay-what-you-like idea may be a one-off gimmick, or it may be the future of the industry.

But maybe the digital revolution has given the bands a bit too much power.

Maybe Radiohead need a record company. Maybe they need someone to tell them their output is getting a bit samey now and isn't actually that good, and maybe they should try something else.

And maybe the record company needs them, to get a slice of that sale in order to fund the next Radiohead, whoever that may be.

Either that, or everyone will go down the Radiohead route and new ways of developing and discovering the next Radioheads will take over.

It feels like a pivotal point in music history - but for Radiohead's method of sale rather than the music itself.

Anyway, my favourite Radiohead album is still Pablo Honey. Get back to your best, boys, and I might be persuaded to give you more than 0.00 next time.

A fan explains how much he thinks the album is worth

What do you think of the new Radiohead album?
4049 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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