Radiohead has caused a pretty big stir by announcing that their new album, In Rainbows, will be initially released as download-only, and they are allowing their customers to name-their-own-price for the album. (Further, the only physical version of the album available – the “discbox” – costs a very pricey 40 quid, essentially forcing the vast majority of fans to buy the album as a download.)
This business model sounds fairly radical to music consumers, but it is actually pretty familiar for gamers. Simply put, In Rainbows is shareware, meaning freely-distributed digital data with optional payment. Small-scale games (or larger ones, like Doom) have been distributed as shareware since the very beginnings of personal computing. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of Radiohead’s gamble. Personally, I would prefer digital music to move towards either a subscription service or a single, non-DRM download shop, but it’s nice to see a novel option been tried (or borrowed).