Today, popular UK band Radiohead announced the presale for their upcoming album The King of Limbs. Interestingly, the physical CD of the album will not be available until late March, while the downloading can begin over a month earlier on February 19. (A special vinyl edition of the “Newspaper Album” won’t be available until May 9th.) The pre-sale was announced through the microblogging service Twitter with the words, “thank you for waiting.”
This emphasis on a digital download over the physical album is nothing new for the band, which famously released its critically acclaimed 2007 album In Rainbows digitally about a month before the physical release. The band also employed a “pay-what-you-want” system for In Rainbows, which is noticeably absent in this recent release.
Interestingly, Radiohead’s pre-sale page seems to downplay a CD release. The digital offering comes out much sooner, and it also promotes an expensive double vinyl-LP “newspaper edition” of the album. The decision to push a cheaper download or a more expensive “deluxe” physical edition may be part of a larger movement apparently headed by popular artists instead of the labels which distribute their works. Wilco, for instance, released it’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for free after their label declined to release it. Dark Night Of The Soul, Danger Mouse’s last collaboration with musician Sparkle Horse and David Lynch, was also released for free, and illegally, with a follow-up high-end book of art. As the music industry continues to struggle with the online marketplace, these alternative release options may be a sign of things to come.
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