Radiohead King of Limbs Online Execution

February 18th, 2011
by Dustin Woodard

Loss of Limb: What Radiohead could have done to improve their self-distributed King of Lambs Album web success.

Over three years ago I beat up Radiohead for the online execution of In Rainbows. I was frustrated because they had a great opportunity to prove the self-distribution model online, but made several simple mistakes that may have reduced their effectiveness. With their latest release, King of Limbs, which hit the web today, they made some similar mistakes.

Before I jump into the King of Limbs website improvement suggestions, I do want to applaud their music and alternative distribution experiments. They are still doing a great job changing the music industry–I just wish they partnered with a company that knew what they were doing online.

King of Limbs Site Improvement Suggestions:

King of Limbs

Radiohead King of Limbs Album Website

Here’s what I wish Radiohead would have done with their King of Limbs Album Website from different standpoints.

King of Limbs Album Cover

King of Limbs Album Cover

Usability:

  • Splash homepage. Relying on Image map for navigation with poor alt text. Glad I’m not blind.
  • But they want me to be blind. There is no description of what is on the album. How many tracks? What songs?
  • No opportunity to preview any of the music. I don’t need to hear the whole song, but I would love to hear a sneak peek before drop $9-48.00.
  • No help deciding what digital version to choose from.
  • Newspaper Album terminology confusing.
  • No links to any information about the band. No links to other sites about the band or other albums.
  • Navigation comes and goes. Homepage has no navigation other then image map. Some pages have Home link, Order Tracking, Help and Checkout. Other have only Home link and some have Home, Order Tracking and Help, but no checkout.
  • Checkout jumps to www.thekingoflimbs.com through strange transaction URL redirect. If you started on kingoflimbs.com, this may trip up some people, especially with higher levels of browser security.
  • Not brought into a secure form until you fill out your email address and password. Order form being non-secure until this step may scare some people.
  • No choice on the download options. Does it always come down as a zip file?
  • The zip file came with no instructions whatsoever. Some people might want help loading the MP3s into iTunes, etc.
  • The zip file included the album cover, but didn’t bother with a song list, lyrics, videos, art, or any information about the album

Social:

  • No images to be used as thumbnails on Facebook or other sharing platforms when linking to the site.
  • No sharing options on the site. Why not encourage people to brag about downloading the album?
  • Completely reliant upon news organizations to point to the URL and share the news. No information about the release.
  • No link or embed of the music video. The press felt it was worth sharing, why did Radiohead skip it?
  • No evidence of interaction with fans on release day – other then a Tweet that says you can download the album.

SEO:

  • A splash homepage with an image map. Seriously?
  • Title tag is: “The King of Limbs : Where are you?” No mention of Radiohead, music, album, etc. “Where are you” not helping anything.
  • The alt tags on the image map are not helping the site (The Americas, S.E.Asia, UK/Ireland, Europe, Rest of the World.
  • No meta description. Guess they don’t care what their listing looks like in the engines.
  • Used only an H2 and a H5. I’m scratching my head on why they chose those two.
  • Had the search engines crawl the correct URL before the album launch. A search for “King of Limbs” has the following URL #1 in Google: thekingoflimbs.com/CC.php?ID=2.
  • Both canonical version of the site resolve (thekingoflimbs.com and www.thekingoflimbs.com). Pick one!
  • KingofLimbs and www.kingoflimbs also resolve – I can’t tell which domain they want to use.
  • All the different domain variations clearly creates duplicate content problems, but each area of the map you click on generates the same content–only the price changes.
  • Most of the URLs seem to push through a php page that uses a javascript URL rewrite.
  • Passing a large amount of link equity to shop.sandbag.uk.com.
  • The various SEO mistakes make it so search spammers, music resellers and bit torrents can potentially outrank Radiohead for their own album. Since they are self-distributing this could result in lost sales or unnecessary commissions.

Maybe it doesn’t matter?
Despite all the issues I raise above (and many more I didn’t bother pointing out), I’m sure the King of Limbs album will be highly successful. This site is still executed better than the In Rainbows site was. Again, I’m frustrated that they didn’t put the web to full use, especially if it is their primary distribution method.

Unnecessary disclaimer: I listened to the album while writing the post and must say that I enjoyed it. So far Codex is my favorite song.

Posted in General, Search | Comments (6)

6 Responses to “Radiohead King of Limbs Online Execution”

  1. Mark Macoy Says:

    I agree with most of these criticisms. I don’t think the image map is a big deal. It’s a lot better than using flash, which would have made it inaccessible to all iphones and ipads. On the other hand, why even have that page? If it’s necessary to ascertain people’s location, why not just handle that in the order form?

    But the order form is just plain incomprehensible. Why are they asking for the date your credit card became valid? No one else does that. So far I haven’t even been able to download album. I get a generic declined message and I know for a fact that my card works fine. Then when I sent sandbag an email, I got back a canned FAQ. Radiohead hired a bunch of amateurs.

  2. dustin Says:

    @Mark – True, I thought for sure it was flash, but was happy to see it was an image map, which is better. I didn’t notice that on the order form – bet they really wanted just the expiration date.

    Hope that you get your Radiohead King of Limbs download before you are forced to download a pirated version!

  3. spinner Says:

    oh hell. I paid for mine and I still can’t download it. I get an error message saying that I need to click the [non-existent] button for LiveChat help. This is why pirating exists. And really, it’s not pirating when you’ve already paid for it!

  4. TTTTT Says:

    Spinner: Same thing happened to me, I paid for it, failed download, and Sandbag ignored my emails for two weeks. Six weeks later I get an email from Sandbag telling me they’re refunding my order. Still no download. Must say, the technology they’re using should be of huge concern to Radiohead.

  5. Scott Bush Says:

    Good analysis. I agree, most of these issues should have been resolved by any decent web developer. Granted, there may have been limitations (launch date, budget, band’s insistence on certain things–that’s what I’m guessing about the splash page) but overall these problems were completely avoidable.
    Word of advice: e-mail Radiohead this post (and the In Rainbows one) and ask for their business on their next release!

  6. jelly roll sale Says:

    Not their biggest fan, but I was aware of their “alternative” delivery on the last record release. Reading those tips, I’m kind of surprised that no one in their camp caught any of that prior to the release.

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