Radiohead's new downloadable album: DRM-Free!

An update on the new album from Radiohead, "In Rainbows," which will be available via download starting at midnight tonight: it's absolutely DRM-free, according to an announcement today on the band's website. Now, I know I wasn't the only one who had problems actually ordering and paying for the tracks, and there's been much griping around the web about problems with their online store... all is forgiveable, IMO, with this news. You gotta give these guys credit for making this move. They're not the only band selling DRM-free music online, direct to fans, but FSM knows they're the biggest. And this move matters. Link

(Thanks, Camille, also spotted at sharealike and elsewhere.)

Previously: Radiohead lets fans pick price for new album


  1. I plan to buy it and pay an amount comparable to buying it from iTunes. Maybe more. I hope so many people do this that it nets the band millions more than selling it through traditional channels.

    That would take what, like twenty people?

  2. Please keep in mind that these tracks are at 160kbps bitrate (considered by many to be low-quality), and the download codes aren’t actually being sent out until later in the morning on the 10th, not midnight.

  3. Went with the intention of buying the album for $20 (premium for leading the way), but then got taken in by the discbox idea, so I spent 40 quid.

    Good on ya, Radiohead.

  4. hey its rex from gp the problems with the website were only due to high volume of hits as jonny explained on dead air space. the website is running pretty smooth now..
    although greenplastic is seeing an above normal amount of users also making things a little funny with the greenplastic servers
    these things are to be expected when news hits like this

    i mean come on its radiohead!!!

  5. Hear that sound?

    It’s the sound of a thousand record company parasites shitting their pants.

    Viva Radiohead.

  6. I purchased the album for $25 US, it is the first Radiohead album I have purchased since Kid A. All others I have downloaded, then supported the band through concert ticket purchases and other concert-going swag. After 7 years of downloading the band I have finally been allowed to be an honest customer without compromising my fair-use rights. Thank you Radiohead.

  7. It is very interesting to read the mixture of coverage this album has gotten so far — half is “OMG radiohead is letting people download their album for free!!1!” and the other half is “OMG radiohead won’t sell you the CD without the vinyl, and it costs nearly $80 USD!!!1”. Actually the former attitude seems to expressed by more than 90%, not half, which is curious.

    Of course, both are true! Their download version doesn’t include disc 2 at all, and only most of the songs on disc 1. The CD is not available without getting the vinyl, and that actually does cost 40 british pounds.

    I plan to give them a few bucks on their download page, and then get the whole thing in better-than-160kbps from a pink-colored torrent site.

  8. It’s too bad the digital downloads are such low quality. I won’t pay for low bitrate downloads unless there is no alternative, and the box set is absurdly expensive. They really should have a CD as well that we can buy.

    By the time they arrange a CD contract (early next year, I’ve heard), the album will be cold and they’ll have lost a lot of sales. Then people will take it as a sign that digital downloads don’t work.

  9. Oddly, it seems the registration screen requires a mobile phone number to proceed. I was about to but it, but I guess that’s that. Anyone know if it’s actually required (and they text you something or other) or if it’s just them being annoying?

  10. corpse 1: Still it’s better than iTunes, especially considering that the standard method for geting iTunes tracks into MP3 is to burn to disc, and then rip them. That’s time consuming, and it further reduced the audio quality.

  11. I’m unimpressed that the MP3 quality is 160kbps. Seeing that it’s Radiohead, when I pre-ordered the download I figured their commitment to fidelity and loyalty would merit premium encoded, DRM-free downloads. Given the choice, I would have preferred they release a CD independently for which I would happily pay $13 or $15.

  12. It’s available now…it was available at least an hour+ ago…~01:30EST. 160kbs CBR isn’t great but neither is MP3, somebody else can argue about MP3 bitrates, buy the box set if you want quality…I did. Doesn’t hurt that it comes with 40 quid of extras on top of the regular cd…and you can help show the record companies that they’re on their way out while supporting the artists.

  13. Just finished listening here in San Francisco…

    Who gives a shit about bit-rate, format, whatever the hell you’re complaining about.

    It’s that f**king good.


  14. I did have trouble with the online store, but just waited for the initial wave of Digg/Reddit/bb/\/. “can I really pay $0?!?!” traffic to crest and it worked just fine.

    More importantly, I downloaded it about 2 minutes after the release tonight, and the transfer cruised at the full rate of my DSL line, no hitches whatsoever.

    I happily paid $10 for my copy. 8 tracks in, and it’s clearly well worth it. I hope they release some stats on what people paid and perhaps also a comparison to what they’d have made from the label. Think I’ll burn a copy for my girl now…

  15. Hi, I am Italy-based and I have just downloaded the whole album for £ 0.00. Download worked fine and I now have the MP3 files really *for free*! Viva Radiohead! This is a good move forward against the excessive power of the musical industry.

  16. Very Very smooth transfer (huge pipe (1100kbps download), very smooth album too – I would highly recommend this.
    This is going to be the way soon. More and more indies are getting their stuff up on itunes, emusic and cdbaby without the need of record compnaies and distributors. Just look – Nine Inch Nails is now completely indie, I’m sure in the next few days you can get their tracks from their site.

    It’s Fan-F@!#$£g-tastic.

  17. @Ben Mautner
    You’re unimpressed, but then again you can pay what you think 160kbps MP3s are worth. Pay nothing for it, and if you really need that higher fidelity, buy the discbox release with the enhanced CDs. Or, pay for a download and then fetch a torrent of FLACs from somebody that did buy the discs. Fact is, Radiohead kept it simple, and will greatly satisfy 99.9% of the peeps that grab the mp3s; the trainspotting 0.1% can pay a premium for their fidelity bragging rights. (Make sure to pipe it through some Pear Anjou cables.)

    Me, I’m unimpressed that they didn’t release this as pay-what-you-wish, in 6 channel surround, encoded in an open source, lossless codec, with uncompressed 1200 dpi CMYK album art files, all crytographically signed by each member of the band and delivered with a commitment to purchase carbon offsets for the production and download energy usage. Frankly, anything less is beneath both me and Radiohead. =\

  18. It sounds fine, too, by the way. And my ears don’t lie. I’m so glad they chose to remix/release Big Ideas.

  19. @ Ben and Alan above. Are you really so insulted by the low bitrate that you won’t even drop $1 to support the idea? Remember, the whole purpose of this idea is to pay what you think the album’s worth – if 160Kbps is only worth $1, pay just that then email the band to let them know that you would have paid more for a higher bitrate. Ignoring the album and posting your views on a board the band may never read will not bring things around to where you want them.

  20. “The biggest”? Well, the biggest that’s making new music, but I’d argue that the Grateful Dead are much bigger, and they’ve been selling DRM-free music for years.

  21. I was slightly disappointed when I found out that the tracks were encoded at 160kbps – I would have expected 192kps, but it has to be said that it sounds awesome. My ears are loving it!

    As for the music itself? First impressions are that this could be up there with The Bends and OK Computer. I can’t believe it – a new Radiohead album and Half Life 2: Episode 2 on the same day!

  22. @Alan Yeung: There is a CD, in fact two, in the diskbox, that is available in December, and likely to be a domestic release in the New Year. Radiohead don’t need a deal to produce this or distribute it, that’s the whole idea. Obviously I don’t know what they’re doing to get it into the shops but I can’t imagine Tesco or Walmart refusing to stock it if they distributed it independently or through an independent distributor. As for the LP going cold, this is Radiohead, one of the biggest bands on the planet. It’s more to the point that the LP won’t chart because of its downloads (as far as I know – if it has been audited it will be No 1 in the UK and US this weekend), and there will be many people who will have bought the MP3s and will buy the CD. It’s a win/win.

  23. Successful in both music and method imo – and one of the best side benefits of this technique is that by moving beyond the traditional brick and mortar music environment, they’ve sidestepped the time constraints of the traditional delivery mechanism (the months-long lag time between physical production, shipping, etc.).

    It’s a rapid development environment of sorts for music. You can finish a product, and move it immediately. Brilliant.

  24. 160 sounds fine … the tracks were live at 2 a.m. last night and the download took under 3 minutes, which actually really surprised me considering how hard it was to order the tracks at the outset of the whole process.

    Totally worth $4.

  25. Listening to it now… the first track, “15 Steps”, sounds like it was engineered specifically to prove that 160 is not low quality. :) Highly textured, full of highs and lows, positional sound.
    So far so good. =)

  26. As someone who still has perfect hearing, buys CDs, tends not to buy download because of compromised audio quality – I’m sitting here, happy as a clam, listening to this brilliant new album and not at all minding the 160 kpbs MP3 encoding. My girlfriend ordered the box set for my birthday, but I decided to give Radiohead $6 yesterday so that I could listen to the album first thing this morning, and because I want to support what the band is doing to change the music biz model. They’ve done it. This is the future of music distribution, and I can’t help but be thrilled that the record companies are looking at this and shivering in their dirty little boots.

    Now that Radiohead has taken this step, I hope they figure out that there are MANY of us that would be happy to pay them $10 a month to have access to all the studio outtakes, throw-aways, aural experiments, meanderings, songs that have never seen the light of day (“Big Boots” comes to mind, and is there a studio pass of “True Love Waits”? Be still, my heart) and anything else they see fit to stick in the vault.

  27. Bought it last week. It’s an awesome idea, and I hope enough people buy it so they can make their point.

    And it’s an awesome album, as well.

  28. @David Biedny:
    “Now that Radiohead has taken this step, I hope they figure out that there are MANY of us that would be happy to pay them $10 a month to have access to all the studio outtakes, throw-aways, aural experiments, meanderings, songs that have never seen the light of day…”

    From your lips to Thom’s ears, let us hope. This is exactly what that gaping record-company-shaped hole should be filled with.

  29. By the time they arrange a CD contract (early next year, I’ve heard), the album will be cold

    Maybe one year soon, someone will make an album that won’t be cold after six months. It’s been a while.

  30. If I didn’t pre-register for the album, can I really not get it anymore? That seems daft. When I try to follow the link, asks me for a registration code; I’ve been nosing around for 20 mins trying to give them my money in exchange for goods and services! If anyone can offer tips on how to download it, they’d be much appreciated.

  31. Er, last comment begging for help redacted – I got in on my last try :blush:. Maybe the site’s just a little overwhelmed right now.

  32. Here’s a consumer tip: I never received a confirmation email or activation code, but my card was charged (for the record, I paid 4 pounds), so I sent them an email this evening to try and straighten it out. Within about a minute I was sent a unique activation code, apparently without verifying whether I had paid anything at all, which makes sense when you consider that they are offering InRainbows for the pirce of It’s Up To You. Like a lot of other people here, I prefer higher bitrates (I’m a shn and flac kinda guy), but I’ve got the headphones on now and it sounds extraordinarily sweet. Thanks Radiohead!

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