I'm sure most of you have read the interesting news about what Radiohead is doing with their next album, In Rainbows. Initially, they plan to offer it as a download and are letting you name your own price when they release it from their inrainbows.com website on October 10th. You can also purchase the discbox version, which includes - the new album on CD and on 2 x 12 inch heavyweight vinyl records; a second, enhanced CD contains more new songs, along with digital photographs and artwork; the discbox also includes artwork and lyric booklets, which are encased in a hardback book and slipcase. The discbox version will be released around December 3rd and will cost £40.00 including postage (with current exchange rates this comes out to US $81.52 -- and I don't know if this will also include shipping to the U.S. or if that is limited to Great Britain).
What's interesting to me is they are releasing this album with no record label backing. In this Audioholics article, they mention "As one of the few innovative music acts with any significant degree of mainstream popularity, Radiohead has apparently decided on an equally innovative approach to music sales: boot their recording label, give the music away, ask only for a donation, and only ask a fixed price for value added content." They go on to explain how this differs from other artists who create their own independent labels, but still use the same basic business model. By providing the album as a download, not only do they avoid the recording industry's unfavorable contract terms, they also avoid all the middle men like iTunes and other online music retailers. And since they are offering the downloads without DRM and almost for free, they eliminate any of the incentives that contribute to online piracy. The Audioholics article is really about how Radiohead and other artists are leaving the traditional recording industry. They include a copyright statement from Robert Fripp to explain what they mean by the industry's unfavorable terms.
I still don't know if they will offer the tracks in a lossless format. I doubt it, but that would be really great. Especially if they could somehow show that the lossless tracks generated more income than MP3s. This would encourage other artists to also offer lossless as an option. Since they are appealing to "audiophiles" by offering their music on vinyl, they should consider offering lossless tracks for download and maybe even 24bit/96kHz for download or on a disc format. Someone on this AVS Forum thread mentioned when they emailed the support contact listed on the Radiohead website and asked what format and bitrate they planned to provide, the response was 'MP3'. This makes sense, since they are letting us name our own price. I'd love to pay $15 or $20 for the album download in a lossless format especially if it was available as 24bit/96kHz tracks.