2008 Creativity Award Winner: Radiohead: In Rainbows

Published on .

Whether you're a fan of the band or not, if you bought music in the last two decades, the idea was sure to raise your eyebrows. In October 2007, when Radiohead, the platinum-selling, genre-bending musical entity, decided to release its first post-EMI/Capitol Records album In Rainbows on its own website and charge fans... gasp! ... whatever they wished to pay, well, you simply had to excuse the music industry if it left the room for a moment to change its newly soiled drawers.

As one A&R executive at a major European label told Time, "This feels like yet another death knell. If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business."

So music execs freaked out and many in the media predicted that the sneaky, music-stealing public would pay nothing at all. Turns out, while plenty of folks opted for a $0 price tag, many more decided to support the band by dropping a reported average of five bucks.

Add to all this the fact that In Rainbows' musical chops proved the stunt more than a simple web gimmick. The album earned the band some of the best reviews of its career and landed on a distinguished collection of Best Album lists for 2007. Music review website Pitchfork, while itself calling the album "brilliant," even got with the program and allowed readers to enter their own numbered ranking that the site is known for.

Sure, the whole exercise could've been an eccentric marketing plan to promote the December release of a physical album (which eventually made it to the top of the Billboard 200). Perhaps many paid money out of respect for the idea itself, rendering the strategy iffy to anyone who follows the band's lead. And maybe it only worked because you'd be hard-pressed to find a more popular, well-known act in music. Still, just as Prince released an album free via a London newspaper only to cash in on the subsequent 21 sold-out shows in that city, big name acts with the requisite name recognition should be the ones pushing the boundaries as the music business continues to search for its new model.
Most Popular
In this article: