Saturday, October 20, 2007

Did Radiohead's Experiment Fail?

By Terrence O'Brien

Well, it all depends on your perspective.

The pessimist would say the experiment was a failure, proving that, no matter what, the pirates will always have their way with an artist's work. Despite the unique offering that allowed fans to pay whatever they felt (including nothing) for a digital copy of the new album from the British art-rockers, 'In Rainbows' still made the rounds on popular BitTorrent sites Pirate Bay and Torrent Spy, among others. The album was downloaded about 240,000 times illegally in the first day, and about 100,000 more times each day following, topping 500,000.

The optimistic view point takes those numbers and puts them into perspective. In the same time frame, Radiohead managed to sell 1.2 million copies of its album through the 'In Rainbows' Web site. That far outstrips the 500,000 pirated copies and the 300,000 CD copies the band's last album, 'Hail to the Thief,' sold in its first week. Normally popular albums are illegally downloaded far more than they are legally purchased.

So more than half a million people have downloaded unnecessarily pirated copies of an album that could have been downloaded for free through legitimate channels. Ultimately, it comes down to which distribution method is easiest, and let's face it, who wants to go to multiple individual band or album sites for each piece of legit free music when you can just click on a bunch of titles at a pirate site, walk away, and go about your daily business while songs and movies download in the background.

So, in the end, is Radiohead's experiment a failure, or does it really matter, since free music is free music. And while we're at it, what do you think about those 500,000 people who downloaded pirated copies of the Radiohead album? Are they idiots, pirates, or did they just want to save time while they one-stop-"shopped" for music? Discuss!

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