It's not often in this media-saturated, webbed up world that someone can pull something off that is (more or less) a complete surprise.
So kudos to the boys from Radiohead for pulling their new album out of the bag without anyone really knowing it was happening. They've just announced the release of their new album In Rainbows, which will be available from Wednesday 10 October.
But not content with just catching the media with a surprise release, they're also rethinking how an album is released. At liberty to do pretty much what they want as they're not signed to a record label, they're releasing it as a download only first, and they've left it up to the buyer to choose how much to pay for it. But you can also pre-order a handsome box-set of the album, designed in collaboration with Stanley Donwood, for delivery sometime on or before Monday 3 December. The set includes the ten track CD, and LP of the same, a digital download, an extra CD with eight further tracks, photos and artwork, plus art and lyrics booklets. It'll set you back £40. Then in early 2008 they'll release it as a standard CD.
This all raises some fascinating questions about the financial and emotional value we place in music, both as audible experience and tangible physical product. Obviously the guys in Radiohead aren't short of cash, so it's not a huge deal for them to release the music without asking anyone to pay for it. Does it devalue music to do so? Or at least make us rethink our expectations about what we should pay for digital downloads? And releasing a sumptuous box set reflects on the emotional worth of a physical item.
The Guardian music blog has posted about it, and the comments make for fascinating reading.
And check out Creative Review's blog for a look at the box set.
We think it's all pretty groovy. Our only problem is the In Rainbows website. Yeeurch. It looks like a migraine.
But, what we really want to know, is how much will you pay for the download? Let us know below. We paid a fiver, as that felt like a reasonable amount for a new album. But it could be that we've been brainwashed by the machine...