I just received an email update from the people behind Radiohead‘s new album release, saying that they’ll be sending me my authorization code for downloading their new album. That’s right, 160kbps, and DRM-free. If you haven’t heard, Radiohead had finished their contract with EMI and have gone independent (whatever that means nowadays). With their upcoming album, In Rainbows, they’ve been offering it for download for whatever price you want to name!! What in the name of lunacy has possessed them to do such a thing????

If you’re still on 8-tracks, let me help enlighten you. Converting music into a digital format has made it easier to duplicate music and to distribute it with a click of a the mouse. In our digital age, music has become a commodity and some even say our generationbelieves music is free. This sudden shift in consumer thinking and demand has left the music industry reeling as CD sales have plummeted while music downloads are estimated to have gone from nil in 2003 to 53 million in 2006.

Interestingly enough, Radiohead’s publicist has said that initial totals from their pre-sales have shown that they are making close to what a typical album would regularly make. Seeing that they’re Radiohead and they’ve got a massive fan base, it would be hard to generalize that this case will work for everyone. With a large percentage of their listeners as being in the 25-40 age group, it also makes online distribution that much easier. But what we’ll see overall are shifts in the traditional music label’s modus operandi, in that they’ll need to learn to embrace digital to continue to thrive.

I’m not a big Radiohead fan (at least not yet from what my friends are telling me), but hey, for a couple of bucks I can download it and get a legal copy that I can share with my friends, I think that’s awesome. But if they’re able to make this money on this first album, then great! However, music listeners today have a concept of value in mind when they’re purchasing, instilled by years of CD sales. But in the future, when the next gen of listeners no longer go to store to buy albums, how much will they decide the value of an album to be?

Just in, Oasis, Jamiroquai, and Nine Inch Nails has followed Radiohead’s lead and have dumped their label in what is becoming an interesting trend on how bands are communicating with their fans.