So what did you pay for Radiohead's In Rainbows? As discussed in our IM chat, we paid zilch but have also ordered the $82 deluxe edition, because we don't want Thom Yorke to look so sad all the time.
We checked in with other New York Magazine staffers to see what they were willing to shell out for an album that was offered for free. How many New Yorkers struggled with the complicated ethics of pay-what-you-want music? And how many were so unconcerned with the ethics that they didn't even bother to use Radiohead's site, downloading it off Pirate Bay instead? Our handy chart — plus elaborate justifications of overpayment! — after the jump.
Michael Idov, contributing editor: "I paid $0 because roughly 48 of my friends sent me a link to a free zip file within minutes of the album’s coming out."
Ben Williams, nymag.com editorial director: "I only pay for CDs. MP3 sound quality isn't worth money. And I don't like Radiohead that much."
Emma Pearse, editorial assistant: "I paid $0, but my boyfriend plonked down $80 for the disc box set and doesn't regret it at all. He is fully aware that he is a sucker, but a sucker with vinyl."
Ian Adelman, nymag.com design director: "I’m attempting to download the album now, and there’s no way I’m gonna pay for it. Although maybe I should pay something so they can upgrade their goddamn servers."
Everett Bogue, photo editor: "I paid $0, as I was already downloading the last episode of Heroes off of BitTorrent and figured I might as well get them both in one go. I’ll pay for it later if it turns out that I’m going to listen to it more than twice."
Jen Wieczner, intern: "I paid $0 because I’m an unpaid intern … I like to think Radiohead had people like me in mind when they made paying optional."
Logan Hill, contributing editor: "I overpaid at four pounds. Because I didn't realize how fucked the dollar is."
Jessica Coen, nymag.com senior editor: "I forked over $5 — I would've paid $10, but I'm still pretty pissed about being unable to get tickets the last time they toured."
Justin Davidson, classical-music and architecture critic: "Since the only way to audition the album is to download it, I paid $0 the first time around. I'll give it a listen, and if I decide I want to keep owning it, I'll download it again, and pay $10."
Sam Anderson, book critic and contributing editor:
I actually spent a long time agonizing over how much to pay: The ethical window, I figured, was between $9.99 (typical price for a digital album) and $17 (typical price for a CD in a store). Anything less would be taking advantage of Radiohead's visionary trusting-ness; anything more would be an extravagant gesture that'd probably just function later as something to brag about in conversations about how much you paid for the album. I kept swinging back and forth within this range — toward the low end because obviously there weren't many packaging/marketing costs incurred here, so most of it would be pure profit, but then back toward the high end because I felt like rewarding the band for trusting me so deeply, and just generally for providing me with a lot of musical joy over the years. (Having the price un-imposed by a corporate record label made it feel much more like a personal "statement" of my relationship to the band.)
I ended up paying $14, a number that strikes me as the ideal honor-code price: It still feels like a deal, because it's less than I would've paid at a store and not much at all for an album that'll probably be in my semi-heavy rotation for the next couple of years. But I also felt like I was in the neighborhood of rewarding Radiohead properly for all their work — not stealing digital cookies from the pick-your-own-price cookie jar.
So now I feel pretty smug when I talk to people who've paid less (pirates!) or more (drama queens). I am the ideal consumer of Radiohead!
Sadia Latifi, intern: "I paid $20 because I am in love with Thom Yorke, and because True Love waits. And … pays extra."
Ben Mathis-Lilley, assistant editor:
"I paid $5 because somehow, even in the digital age, I manage to lose albums regularly. So I fully expect to pay another $5 at some point in the future, totaling a fair price of $10."