Radiohead and the Ethics and Future of Downloading Music

On: October 3, 2007
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About Anne Helmond
Anne Helmond is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture and Program Director of the MA New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is a member of the Digital Methods Initiative research collective where she focuses her research on the infrastructure of social media platforms and apps. Her research interests include digital methods, software studies, platform studies, app studies, infrastructure studies and web history.


As you might have heard Radiohead dropped its major label and put its new album online for download. This is not a new strategy but what is interesting is that they don’t sell their music through iTunes for $0.99 per song or $10-12 per album but through their site only. They are moving the legal download music industry into a new direction. The album doesn’t have a fixed price but you pay what you wish.

Radiohead 01

I think this is a very clever move as it explores the boundaries of the ethics of downloading. I could go through a lot of trouble locating the new album and illegaly download or I could download it officially through their site. But this is where it gets interesting, how much am I going to pay? I could download it for only $0.99 or for the regular price of around $12.

Radiohead 02

Radiohead is the first artist that makes me think about the ethics of downloading and how much one would be willing to pay to download an album. I still haven’t made up my mind. I would feel guilty towards Radiohead if I would only pay $0.99 but I am not willing to pay $12 either. I’ve been thinking about $5 but the fact that I can’t listen to samples of the album makes the decision even harder. What would you pay for an album if you had the choice? (and now you do!)

Radiohead 03

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