Pay-What-You-Want Albums Are Catching On

Radiohead's pay-what-you-want release of its album In Rainbows is starting to catch on. Today spoken-word hip-hop artist Saul Williams releases his album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!, via his Website. Users can choose to either get it for free or offer a donation of at least $US5.

Behind today's release is some heavyweight help from Nine Inch Nails' frontman Trent Reznor who has been a vocal supporter of releasing music directly to fans via the Web.

A quick look at Williams' Web-debut of his album shows improvements over a lot of things Radiohead was chastised for, primarily offering their album at a bit rate significantly less than the 256K bps standard.

The Saul Williams Website, in a Web layout similar to that of Radiohead's In Rainbows, details exactly what fans who donate or don't will get with the album. Paying users will get the album in one of either three formats, 192Kbps MP3, 320Kbps MP3 and FLAC lossless audio. The free version of the album is only available the 192Kbps MP3 version. All downloads come with a PDF of artwork and lyrics and all files are 100 percent DRM free.

The release model could also be the method of choice for the next Nine Inch Nails album. Speaking to New York Magazine, Reznor, who produced the Williams album, said, "If I had [an album] that was done, I would [release] it today in exactly the same way." Nine Inch Nails is currently a free agent, as announced on the band's blog last month.

Only time will tell where the In Rainbows effect might show up next.

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