Free Radiohead album distributed by pirates

Written by Tim Smalley

October 18, 2007 // 11:45 a.m.

Tags: #bittorrent #distributed #distribution #emi #free #in #industry #legitimate #piracy #pirates #radiohead #rainbows #record #torrent

Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ album attempted to change the way the record industry worked by allowing fans to pay as little or as much they want to pay for an infection-free version of the album.

Despite this and Radiohead’s massive first week sales of 1.2 million units, music analysts have said that at least 500,000 users that frequent popular torrent sites have downloaded the album illegally in the same way that they would for an album that will cost £10 in your local record store.

Big Champagne, a US-based organisation that tracks illegal downloading on the Internet, has said that it expects illegal downloads to overtake legal downloads in the coming weeks. The company’s CEO, Eric Garland, believes that most of the 1.2 million legitimate downloads were pre-orders taken in the 10 days between Radiohead’s announcement and its release date.

Garland says that it’s a matter of habit than of economics. “People don’t know Radiohead's site. They do know their favourite BitTorrent site and they use it every day,” said Garland. “It’s quite simply easier for folks to get the illegal version than the legal version.”

In his experience, an album’s store price doesn’t change how often it’ll be pirated. “Albums that are popular in retail are popular among pirates,” said Garland. “In the big picture, if people want something, some will pay and others will find a way to take it for free.”

Whether or not you agree with Radiohead cutting out the record label, the organisation responsible for pushing Radiohead into the limelight, the band’s move has been an alarm bell for the music industry.

Forbes obtained an internal memo that was sent around EMI, the band’s former record label, quoting EMI chairman Guy Hands saying “The industry, rather than embracing digitalisation and the opportunities it brings for the promotion of product and distribution through multiple channels, has stuck its head in the sand. Radiohead’s actions are a wakeup call which we should all welcome and respond to with creativity and energy.”

Do you think the music industry will wake up and realise that conventional distribution methods are not working? Discuss in the forums.

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