I just paid £5 for In Rainbows. A review will follow after my ride to work tomorrow. Even if it sucks, however, I'm happy to give them some money just to indicate to the world at large that this is the right way. And as Madonna has followed suit, and Jamiroquaiand Oasis are considering similar arrangements, it looks like artists have already worked this out.
After 10 years of futile struggle against the inevitable, we're finally witnessing the death of the recording industry as we know it. And I couldn't be happier to watch it die. Will some hard-working people lose their jobs? Probably, but only temporarily. The industry will still need studios, as in physical spaces to record their music, and technicians and electricians and engineers to keep those running. The people who work in CD pressing and the physical distribution of music are probably in more trouble, but an expanding economy will find jobs for these people. Who will really lose their jobs are the pointless middle-managers and risk-averse marketers who killed music through the 90s by avoiding anything risky and different.
In their place we will find a larger pool of people who have to work harder to make less money, finding and promoting music. Each will be able to handle only a smaller number of artists, in ever more specific niches. It will no longer be possible to create a global star by finding something relatively inoffensive and promoting the hell out of it -- but for truly talented new artists, becoming a global sensation will be easier than ever before. Since when was a real musician interested in how much money they made rather than how many people were listening? We will come to look back at the 80s and 90s as a bizarre time when companies tried to change how people consume music to fit their business model, rather than the other way around. Tried and, it is now clear, failed.