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You no doubt have heard about Radiohead’s “pay what you feel like” move for their next album.

Actually, you have five options:

1) You can get an MP3 of the album and pay a small credit card transaction fee plus whatever you feel like giving the band, and get it October 10 or

2) You can steal it the usual way, no doubt on October 10, too and/or:

3) You can wait until early 2008 to buy a full audio CD, probably for about $15, give or take a few bucks, or

4) If you can’t wait that long, you can pay five times as much and get it in early December. Yes, you get some “extras” for your extra $65:

  • The same recording on vinyl, too, which 99% of the time will never be used, wasting natural resources and no doubt contributing to global warming.
  • A second CD containing “more new songs, along with digital photographs and artwork.”
  • Some more artwork, the lyrics, packed into a “hardcover book and slipcase.

    So instead of some evil record company charging you $5 or $10 too much, Radiohead will charge you $50 too much. Or:

    5) You can steal the extras on the CD and copies of the artwork the usual way, no doubt in early December, too.

    But that’s not the real problem here.

    The issue isn’t whether or not Radiohead will do well by this, for a number of reasons, they probably will do well from this.

    The problem is what does this do to all the other musicians if this catches on. Where does this put those bands that don’t have millions of dollars of promotional support over the years to piggyback, nevermind the free publicity from this tactic? What happens to bands that haven’t had a couple dozen million album sales if “pay what you want” becomes the norm?

    Radiohead can well afford to self-finance and publicize this album (especially with that $80 option). What about everyone else?

    To quote a couple people who can see past the tips of their noses (posts 193 and 195):

    “Great….Lets just keep the record companies out of the equation and deprive them of the money they spent promoting acts like this to a wider audience. Without them Radiohead would still be stuck in some small town in England doing live gigs at the local pub hoping someone would see thier self financed video amongst 2 million or so others on Youtube.You,as the consumer,no matter how much you dislike record companies,owe them for weeding out all the garbage that is out there today and promoting it to a new audience.”


    It’s amusing to see the mob mentality displayed in these comments, repeatedly voicing distain for record labels. Have we all forgotten the reason we know and love Radiohead is because a record label believed they were special enough to spend significant amounts of money promoting the band? Without that investment, Radiohead would likely be another bar band floating aimlessly throughout England. . . .

    It is easy for Radiohead, as wealthy musicians, to now scoff at the very system that has provided them a meaningful and lasting existence. What many “fans” don’t realize, however, is that promoting music cost money. For example, take a recent review you’ve read of your favorite band on your favorite indie hippster blog. Then realize, that blog didn’t review the record just because it’s good. No, the reason you read that review is because there is a publicist working media outlets just to get good new bands noticed. That publicist is charging anywhere from $2000-$5000 a month. Now, add on top of that the cost to make a decent sounding indie record: $10,000-$25,000. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost to advertise the record: $1,800 a month. If you add these costs up, even on the low side, your looking at $15,000-$20,000 minimum to release a record you would even be remotely interested in. Where is the next Radiohead going to get that kind of money?

    It certainly isn’t going to come from playing bar gigs paying $100-$200. And it isn’t going to come from local fans meager donations for downloads. It’s going to come from a label taking a 1 in 10 chance that a band is actually going to stay together long enough to build up a fan base, make great art, and sell records.

    While this comment is centainly not aimed at saluting major labels (as they deserve much of the criticism levied against them), it is to suggest that if we don’t buy records and support artists, there will be less of them, or alternatively, the good ones will be more difficult to find. Then, we will have only ourselves to blame for being reduced to shifting through the mass of junk on every myspace hoping to find that next gem. While some may relish in this concept, I, for one, do not.


    Is that the world you really want? Radiohead may be posing as rebels screwing the Man on your behalf, but if they really were, why are they going to have a regular CD release? Why not also release lossless rips on the same payment plan so there would be no need to buy a CD? Why not charge $20 without the vinyl, $30 if you actually want it, rather than $80 for their “discbox”?

    No, I’m afraid the major screwing won’t be to the record companies, they’ll just downsize and then give us the world a diet of High School Musicals, Daughters of Hillary Duff, and every old rocker with a name outside of a nursing home.

    No, the real screwing will be given to the Radioheads of the future who’ll be lost in that world of junk: a million garage bands will have five hundred fans each.

    Think about it.

    Ed


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    Discussion
    1. Glad you like the sig, benbaked. This article really said it all from me and I'm highly gratified that at least one other person was thereby able to see what otherwise may have been relegated to obscurity. Hopefully we'll be able keep this invaluable article in the forefront of our forum's collective conscience.
      Personally I think it's a little melodramatic.... Granted this is in retrospective.
      ANY cell phone maker will put restrictions on the types of apps you can use because you could just write a skype client for when you're in a WiFi environment and just use your unlocked - simfree - iPhone or iPod Touch that way instead of paying for AT&T servce. Yes, it would be nice if we could do this but they want to make money so it's unlikely to be seen on any phone. I haven't seen anyone complain about this until Apple entered the fray and it's just because they're Apple.
      Apple has the same problem as Microsoft, they get jumped on for certain things that are "their flaw." If even the smallest security bug is found in Windows, their OS is labeled swiss cheese. If Apple tries to put on some sort of limit found on basically every other cell phone (how many user made Applications do you run on your cell phone?), they're instantly Orwellian dictators.
      That said, for such mongers of micromanagement and Orwelian angst, they don't seem to try very hard to keep these things locked.
      Plus the SDK is coming out soon.
      If you wrote a custom BIOS for your PC and you updated (mind that with the iPhone you are prompted to update your firmware, it's not automatic) and it was overwritten, would you whine to the mobo maker about it? Should they legitimately care?
      Just because YOU chose to update it before a patch was written to cover the new update isn't Apple's fault.
      Moto7451
      ANY cell phone maker will put restrictions on the types of apps you can use because you could just write a skype client for when you're in a WiFi environment...If Apple tries to put on some sort of limit found on basically every other cell phone (how many user made Applications do you run on your cell phone?), they're instantly Orwellian dictators.

      I'll have to respectfully disagree with this premise; my Audiovox 6700 (which, BTW, runs circles around an iphone) can be freely configured to run on any CDMA network. Likewise, there are a plethora of CDMA and GSM smartphones on the market today that can run on any network in the world and run any available Windows or Linux-based program depending on the OS. I can run literally tens of thousands of freely available open-source and proprietary programs on my phone doing everything from telling the tides in the Marianas to running terminal server.
      Moto7451

      If you wrote a custom BIOS for your PC and you updated (mind that with the iPhone you are prompted to update your firmware, it's not automatic) and it was overwritten, would you whine to the mobo maker about it? Should they legitimately care?
      Just because YOU chose to update it before a patch was written to cover the new update isn't Apple's fault.

      A more valid analogy may be to say: "If you wrote a custom BIOS for your PC and you updated Windows and it permanently disabled your machine from ever running Linux, is this an ethical business practice"?
      The real question here is: "Did Apple intentionally , as opposed to inadvertently engineer this update to permanently disable the phone"?
      From all that I've read regarding this issue, the answer is a resounding "yes". It also follows that Apple is very much aware of what their patches do and don't do and it's highly unlikely that they'd "accidentally" include code that just happens to target modified phones, all but permanently disabling them.
      In all fairness, Apple is not the first to pull such a stunt. How many hacked game systems did Microsoft turn into doorstops with updates? I can’t remember if Sony rendered early hacked PSP useless, but I do recall some type of fuss.
      While completely disagree with purposely breaking a purchased product (rather than resetting it to defaults) there is some small justification for companies trying to control their products even after it is in a private home. They shouldn’t be burdened with the cost of supporting altered products.
      Right now, this is the way things are. Laws will probably change in the future (at least for phones), but I have pretty much become use to the fact that I can’t necessarily do what ever I want with these types of products or the software/media associated with them. I bought my iPhone on the first day with 100% certainty of 2 things.
      1. The price would drop soon
      2. It would be hacked and Apple would break those that were
      Anyone who had doubts of either were in denial and foolish not to accept their risks.
      I don't think it is in Apple's best interest to stifle creativity in regards to things ppl do with their products. I would imagine that the numbers of people who are unlocking the phones is quite small in proportion to everyone who bought one.
      hafa
      I'll have to respectfully disagree with this premise; my Audiovox 6700 (which, BTW, runs circles around an iphone) can be freely configured to run on any CDMA network. Likewise, there are a plethora of CDMA and GSM smartphones on the market today that can run on any network in the world and run any available Windows or Linux-based program depending on the OS. I can run literally tens of thousands of freely available open-source and proprietary programs on my phone doing everything from telling the tides in the Marianas to running terminal server.
      A more valid analogy may be to say: "If you wrote a custom BIOS for your PC and you updated Windows and it permanently disabled your machine from ever running Linux, is this an ethical business practice"?

      Ethical or not? It's a business model where Apple get's some money from selling the phone, and some more as a percentage of the users phone bill. Would it be more ethical to charge double for the phone and let you use it freely? Personally I think the best option would have been to offer both options and let the customer choose, but who am I to decide for them?
      I don't live in the US, but I've understood that many operators offer free or cheap phones that are tied to the operator and subscription. Sure you can get the same phone without that subscription, but the price is different.

      The real question here is: "Did Apple intentionally , as opposed to inadvertently engineer this update to permanently disable the phone"?
      From all that I've read regarding this issue, the answer is a resounding "yes". It also follows that Apple is very much aware of what their patches do and don't do and it's highly unlikely that they'd "accidentally" include code that just happens to target modified phones, all but permanently disabling them.

      What was the modification based on? As far as I understood they where using some kind of buffer under-run or other flaw in the operating system running on the phone. That same bug could be used to create a virus for the phone, and if that is the case it would have been unethical not to patch the flaw.
      There is no force upgrade, each user decides himself if he want's to do it or not. I find this whole issue to be pretty ridiculous, as in nobody should really have even thought that they would not go ahead and break the hacks.
      I read through the article and found it to be very funny. Now I really like the ability to do what I want with my hardware, and run Linux on most of my computers. However it's still good to take things for what they are, and nobody should have thought they are getting an "open device" that can be hacked like they want when acquiring an iPhone.
      But of course it's a juicy issue as there are good arguments in either way. Great opportunity to bash Apple ;)
      edit:
      According to this page the iPhone is truly hacked by using a memory buffer overflow, you would have to be stupid to not expect it to be fixed in a new firmware.