No Thank You, Radiohead, Please Sell Where I Shop

First, a quick recap on Radiohead’s place in the world of digital distribution experimentation:

In 2007, Radiohead decides to release their album “In Rainbows” exclusively on Radiohead.com with a unique “choose your own price” model. You pick how much you pay (free being an option), and you then can download the album. Next, comScore releases numbers from the Radiohead experiment, which suggest that most of us are cheapskates and freeloaders.

Then, Radiohead responds to comScore’s numbers and says they “no way reflect the true success of the project” even if also stating that the real numbers are “not for public consumption.” Finally, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke calls the whole thing “a one-off response to a particular situation.”

Fast forward to 2011, and we have Radiohead’s latest distribution model: their new album The King of Limbs is only available on their site for a price of $9 and up (depending on which version you get). The release date was February 18, 2011. But even if I call myself a mild-to-moderate Radiohead fan (have — and have paid for — most their music), I haven’t yet listened to “The King of Limbs.” Here’s why:

My music purchase behavior starts with Zune (I am a Zune Pass subscriber, which means I can listen to most mainstream music via a monthly subscription fee), then goes to Amazon MP3, and then moves to iTunes as a last resort. Occassionly, a fourth location I’ll go for music purchasing is Amazon, for the physical product once known by many: the CD. However, that’s only in the case where the CD comes with something I can’t get with just the digital download.

So where does Radiohead land in my music purchase process? Nowhere. It’s not on Zune, Amazon MP3, or iTunes. And Amazon has the CD listed with a release date of March 29, 2011, but with no extras included.

So why don’t I just go to Radiohead’s site and pay them directly?

  1. That’s not where I shop.
  2. That’s not where I trust my credit card to be stored/used.
  3. That’s not where automated services reside post-purchase to make sure my downloads automatically integrate into my two platforms for music organization (Zune & iTunes).

In short, the fulfillment experience is messy. That’s what I’d expect if I were to opt-in to pirating music. But if I’m paying? It needs to be seamless.

Radiohead should stick with what they know: music. And I’d rather make a statement by not purchasing Radiohead’s album, than make a statement by jumping through their hoops.

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