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The King of Limbs: What is Radiohead's 'Newspaper Album'?

​Radiohead announced yesterday, very purposefully in the midst of America's annual Grammy deluge, that their newest record, titled The King of Limbs will be released this Saturday on their website. Arcade who?

Oh, it's not free this time.

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On the album's website Radiohead lists two versions, a digital-only (featuring a befuddling $5 difference between the MP3 and WAV formats) and "Newspaper Album," a fun-sounding package of art, vinyl, and CD's similar to the "discboxes" the band released with In Rainbows. The major difference between In Rainbows' sorta-groundbreaking release and The King of Limbs being that fans won't be given the option of paying nothing, or a penny, this go round. Maybe because we all know it's worth it.

And just what is a "newspaper album"? Well that's easy. Speaking to Music Week, Radiohead's manager explained succinctly:

Hufford explains that the set...will be housed in a package designed as a newspaper.

Exact sales figures for Radiohead's mass experiment on the release of In Rainbows are murky, but the band did end up selling 100,000 "discboxes," pre-ordered physical copies of the record, in addition to having hundreds of thousands of downloaders paying an average of £4 for the album. Their successful gambit ended up being more lucrative for the band than their previous record, even before tallying its performance through normal distribution channels.

Salon points us to an essay, written by Radiohead's bassist Colin Greenwood, on their In Rainbows rationale and headspace regarding the fundamentally fluxed business of music:

Traditional marketplaces and media are feeling stale - supermarkets account for around 70 per cent of CDs sold in the UK, the charts are dominated by TV talent-show acts - and we are trying to find ways to put out our music that feel as good as the music itself. The ability to have a say in its release, through the new technologies, is the most empowering thing of all.

We'll have to wait and see whether or not the stricter pay scheme affects Radiohead's take (they're poised to make a bundle of money either way...something that's likely low on their list of priorities)  but it's already clear that the timing of their announcement and lack of any sort of pre-release schedule was, again, designed to jar, question, and refocus our attentions. Done, done, and done.