You’ve got to hand it to those guys at Radiohead. Not only are they great musicians. They are great promoters who are at the forefront of figuring out how to use the culture of free music to sell CDs. On New Year’s Eve, just before their latest album In Rainbows goes on sale in stores on January 1, the band will broadcast a prerecorded concert of all the album’s tracks on Current TV. The concert will also be available on the Web at current.com. While Radiohead and Current are positioning this as a “commercial-free” broadcast, what it amounts to is a free commercial for Radiohead’s album.
Radiohead originally released In Rainbows as a pay-as-you-like digital download for a limited time. (Although, that did not stop people from downloading it from BitTorrent networks). If fans were going to download the album for free anyway, at least this way Radiohead could control the way it was distributed somewhat. It also got some karma points from their fans and even more free press than they would have otherwise. Now that all the buzz has propelled the album to No. 1 on many critics’ lists, the band is going to start selling the album in CD form through traditional channels. It is no longer available as a free download from the official Radiohead site. What better way to kick off sales than with a free New Year’s Eve concert on both TV and the Web?