Is this the end for the big record labels?

I've just downloaded the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows, and as as you've probably read elsewhere, the band is asking you to pay whatever you think it's worth, writes Andy Clough.

It's not often when you buy something online that a window pops up against the 'total' box saying: "It's up to you."

As my hands hovered over the keyboard, I was faced with a dilemma: how much should I pay? £1? £5? 10? £15? As an avid iTunes user I'm used to paying £7.99 for an album, so would that be a fair amount? In the end I paid a fiver. Was that reasonable? Or too mean? You decide.

One things for sure, with bands such as Radiohead now selling direct to the public online, the record industry will never be the same again. Madonna has just ended a long-standing relationship with her record label, Warner Brothers, and signed a cash-and-shares deal with concert promoter Live Nation instead.

Given that big-name bands such as The Rolling Stones make a fortune out of touring, you can see the logic of her decision.

But does this mean the end for the big record labels? Critics of the record industry say that the days of overpaid music executives and mega-corporations are over. It will be fascinating to see how much money Radiohead makes from In Rainbows, and how many other bands follow their example.

Despite the popularity of downloading, I reckon people will continue to buy CDs, however they're distributed. There's still something rather satisfying about owning an album in physical format, and having the booklet to go with it.

By the way, In Rainbows is great, and if you'd like to download it yourself, click here.

Technorati Tags: download, MP3, radiohead

Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.