Radiohead Embraces The Wisdom Of Crowds And The Trust Economy

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When two of my favourite worlds collide (the music industry and Social Media), you know there’s some good juice for a Blog posting. The world is sitting back with jaws dropped as the rock band Radiohead announced that their upcoming album, In Rainbows, is currently available for pre-order online only. When you add the selection for the download to the shopping cart and go to check-out, there is a field where you can input as much (or as little) as you are willing to pay (it actually says, "it’s up to you.").

What do you think a new album from Radiohead is worth? Five dollars? Five pounds? Fifty dollars? Two hundred pounds?

I love this idea and I love how Radiohead has embraced the Trust Economy online.

I love this idea much more than when Prince gave his latest disc, Planet Earth, away free in a weekend edition of a UK publication. I love this idea because it is pure marketing in a Digital Marketing world. Value is subjective, and Radiohead is trusting the wisdom of crowds to do right by them. My guess is that this tactic will pay off in multiples.

Beyond the fact that OK Computer is one of my desert island discs, the initiative alone has got me thinking differently about how much new music from an artist I love is "really" worth. One of the reasons iTunes has become so powerful is that people were revolting against the twenty-dollar fee for a disc that only had a handful of tracks that they loved. They wanted the power to purchase just what they wanted. With Radiohead’s approach, they’re embracing some core Social Media values into this new disc launch. While they would never enable their consumers to co-create the product with them, clearly they are willing to stand by their music by enabling us to establish the monetary value.

I find this pay-what-you-want model fascinating. I also love the fact that by doing this, they have stirred up many different types of conversations online that are over shadowing what should be the biggest conversation: is the music any good? (no doubt it is… it’s Radiohead after all).

I think this is Radiohead’s slap in the face to the music industry (err… wake up call). My guess is that when you average out what people decided to pay Radiohead for In Rainbows, that the price per download will be significantly higher than what we’re currently paying for the average full-length music download from iTunes. I’m also willing to put some coins against the fact that the percentage of people grabbing the disc for free through the Torrents will be significantly less than the average new release from any other major artist. Mostly because fans (like me), will (hopefully) appreciate the fact that Radiohead is saying, "we know you can steal this disc, but, if you really like us, give us whatever you feel is right."

It’s hard to argue with that.

It’s a prime example of the Social Media marketing value system. When you engage in a conversation and treat your consumers as your peers (and not in the command-and-control model of traditional advertising and communications), magical things will happen.

The Trust Economy is alive and well online… Radiohead is out to prove it.

Order your copy here: Radiohead – In Rainbows (and, if you’re like me, you’ll pay more than you thought you ever would).


  1. Genius.
    I love Radiohead’s older records, but had moved away from their recent releases.
    Thanks to this tactic I just bought the album. They’ve just made a sale they’d have missed out on if they’d gone through traditional channels.

  2. I’m curious to see if this tactic will impregnate the cerebral womb of other artists. I wonder if letting the people decide an artists worth- if it will weed things out; maybe cause a shift on who is on top vs who should be on top. So many nobodies who should be somebodies and vice versa.

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