The “In Rainbows” Radiohead experiment

Screenshot of Inrainbows webpage The 7th Radiohead album, “In Rainbows”, is freely downloadable from their website till today only. After today it will only be available as a CD – Or, of course, from file sharing sites.

Since it is a free download (they let you chose how much you want to pay – including £0) I had a really difficult time understanding why anyone would get it from any non-official source. Ethics, freedom, rights, trending-setting are at stake – Jolly well support the cause! That was until I tried to buy it myself. The site is REALLY poorly designed:

  • The splash-screen on the main page of the site doesn’t work on my Ubuntu 6.06 machine – I had to Google around to find the URL that gets past the splash-screen (BTW, it’s
  • Clicking the “ORDER” button doesn’t order anything – you need to then click the “VIEW BASKET” button.
  • You have to name your price, in U.K. Sterling. OK for me but a bit dawning for 90% of the world?
  • After choosing your price, you click “PAY NOW”, at which point you set up an account enter some personal information (including your email address and mobile phone number) and agree to some terms of service (which are benign, but it’s more time and more clicks to verify that).
  • Finally, you get to download the music.

After, jumping through all the hoops, I now understand why it wasn’t being lazy to get the album through the file-share networks. Since this is the first time a big band has snubbed the Record Labels in such a massive way, it is important that the experiment is a financial success (or at least a break-even) for Radiohead. Otherwise other bands won’t try following suite. They have a lot of responsibility. This is why it’s so wrong that they messed up the user-experience of the site. They reduced the availability to a level that is below what most teenagers are used to. Shame on them.

If people normally choose P2P over authorized channels because P2P is cheaper, we would expect customers to shift toward the authorized channel when it offers a zero price. But if people choose P2P for convenience, then we’d expect a shift toward more P2P use for this album, because people have fewer moral qualms about P2P downloading this album than they would for a normal album. (from Freedom to Tinker)

BTW, I paid £5 for it. Fair?

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