It can be free; go see for yourself.
This article sums up what’s happend so far. According to a survey taken of the people who’ve downloaded the new album, about a third paid nothing at all: $0.
Some people make a big deal of that (like Fark’s headline, A third of the people offered Radiohead what their new album is worth: $0), but they’re missing the big picture — if a third of downloaders got it for free, that means that *the other two thirds paid for it, even when they _could’ve got it for free_*.
According to the survey, many paid more than $20, and the average price was $8 (I paid about $4, myself). Do the math — even with this survey not necessarily representing all people who downloaded the album, that means that at an average price of $8 times 2/3 of a million downloaders (~8*666,000), that’s like…
*5.3 MILLION DOLLARS*.
And that’s money that’s going straight to the band. No middlemen, no greedy record executives to pay, no RIAA cartel to cozy up to — just straight hard cash going to Radiohead so that they can continue to make good music.
What’s the downside of this type of purchasing system again?
Nothing, from what I can see. Everything I’ve ever heard of seen tell me that bands make very little money off of album sales when they go through a major label and an organization like the RIAA — most of the money they make is through performances and band “stuff” (you know, t-shirts, autographs, and the like).
And while $20-25 bucks (what you’ll pay in a store) for a new album is FAR too much if you ask me, paying the same amount to be 10-20 feet from my favorite band whilst screaming my head off along with thousands of other people? Now, _that’s_ worth $20. I’ve paid that amount before to see bands play in a venue (hell, I usually pay twice that), and I’ll continue to do so — but I haven’t paid for an CD in years.