By now, you've no doubt heard from plenty of sources that you can download the new Radiohead album directly from Radiohead.com. The lads in Radiohead are allowing you to pay whatever you want to download the album, you just have to give them an e-mail address. You can even pay 0£ if you like, which I did. I've taken a listen and have liked it. Since I'm not that well-versed with Radiohead, I may even go out and buy a couple albums, now that I've been introduced. We'll see.
One of the most interesting parts of this is how the record labels are dying. Many artists are going independent, and many are considering giving away the music for free. Why? Because, most artists, especially the big ones, make it on touring the world (or at least their country). With today's "long tail" market and the variety you can get around the Internet, there's no "really big" artists like there were for the last 50 years since the Beatles and up through N'Sync. Plus, Internet distribution is so cheap anyways, it's pretty easy for an artist to lose a couple cents every time an album is downloaded when they'll get a couple bucks out of the soon-to-be fan a couple months later at a concert. Of course, you have to be a good live band for this to work, and many of today's up-and-coming bands are just that.
My favorite free album of late is definitely the triumphant return of Fono. Their first full-length since 1999's Goesaroundcomesaround, Too Broken To Break is freely downloadable as long as you're willing to tell a couple friends about it, and it's probably one of the better alt-rock albums I've heard in a while. I'll have to get their last EP to see if I like that one. It's exciting to see a band back in full force after a fire much like the current wildfires totally leveled their studio and destroyed their last album. I hope this new venture of giving the album away for free works well for them.