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Radiohead: No More Freebies

They were hailed far and wide as digital visionaries last fall, when they offered up their newest album as a “pay as you like” download. But Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke says it’s not likely to happen again.

“It was a moment in time,” he tells the Hollywood Reporter.

In Rainbows made a myriad of Top Ten lists last year but was even better known for its unconventional marketing and distribution.

The New York Times lavished two articles and more than 3,000 words on the band last fall for its prophetic virtual vending strategy. In October Jon Pareles called its merchandising company, W.A.S.T.E. (named for Thomas Pynchon's underground postal system in The Crying of Lot 49, for all you non-postmodern lit geeks), “a cyber-cottage industry” with a business model that “recognizes the new digital facts of life.” The headline on Pareles’s December follow-up read, “Pay What You Want for This Article.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal saw “MORE THAN A MARKETING GIMMICK,” while the International Herald Tribune called 2007 “The Year of the Virtual Busking Gambit.”

Thing is, Radiohead always remained cagey about just how successful their brave new experiment was, never disclosing online sales figures. In Rainbows had a traditional brick-and-mortar release three months after its digital drop.

“I don't think it would have the same significance now anyway, if we chose to give something away again,” Yorke says. Maybe not, but you’d think a band that’s racked up so much reverence over the years might be okay with doing something a little less, well, significant – but just as cool.

Kinda makes you wonder how many online “buyers” bought In Rainbows at all.

The band will be in South Florida, at the Cruzan Amphitheater in West Palm on Monday, and according to Ticketmaster, there are still tickets available for the show. Judging from the quality of both the new album and their last local concert in 2003, miss Radiohead at your own peril.

But to answer your question, no, moochers, the show is not free. –Frank Houston

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Frank Houston

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