Radiohead In Rainbow Changing the Music Industry But With Poor Online Execution

I love seeing people using the Internet to change entire industries. Radiohead is geared up to do so by releasing their latest album, In Rainbow, as a download for as little or as much as the fan wants to pay. They are taking a gamble that people won’t download it for free, or they figure those people will find a way to get it for free anyway.

I love the idea and hope the best for Radiohead as this will make a big impact in the music industry, but was a little disappointed after I visited the site. From a search engine and usability standpoint, Radiohead made some major mistakes that might come back to haunt them. Let me list out some of the mistakes and explain the possible implications.

Radiohead In Rainbow Site mistakes:

  • 302 redirected their existing site homepage ( to new site:, but…
  • 302 redirects to
  • The more logical site domain, (no “s”, which matches the album title) wasn’t registered, purchased or used. Instead a domain parker will receive lots of traffic.
  • Title tag for In Rainbow site mainpage is “Radiohead”
  • Site mainpage only has images with no search engine readable text
  • 2nd page only has images no search engine readable text and same title tag
  • 3rd page only has images no search engine readable text and same title tag
  • Home links go to the 3rd page
  • Shopping cart very awkward & buggy (keeps losing track of my order)
  • Grammar mistakes confusing
  • Amounts only shown in British Pounds
  • Question mark help icon doesn’t provide any help or explanation
  • There is actually a 1 GBP minimum, that’s $2.04 more than free
  • There is actually a 99 GBP limit. Want to be an extreme fan and buy it for $1,000? Too bad.

Radiohead In Rainbow Site Mistake Implications:

  • With the 302 mistakes, not only are they begging for a search spammer to hijack their site traffic, but they are linking to a page that they will probably change URLs over time.
  • With all the search engine & readability mistakes, they will essentially allow standard retailers and online stores to steal away their direct payment opportunities by allowing them to rank higher for their own album and even site.
  • The usability issues will also turn people back to iTunes or other dealers.
  • Their main site may suffer rank decreases and traffic losses for a long time.
  • The download for free concept won’t be given an honest shot, which may deter other artists like Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam, REM, Metallica and other likely candidates from trying a similar experiment.
  • Regardless of the mistakes I list, this will be an effort worth watching for those in the music industry, movie industry or any other industry where self-distribution online could be a big opportunity.

16 thoughts on “Radiohead In Rainbow Changing the Music Industry But With Poor Online Execution

  1. Janet Meiners

    You are right, these are glaring mistakes. Did they do it themselves? So many barriers to buy when it should be the opposite buying directly from them especially.
    I don’t agree with people saying its genius. They are artists and that’s what they should do. Or, get partners who know the technology, SEO, internet marketing, etc. I think it’s a mistake but hopefully they do so well anyway (riding on years of good marketing) that it doesn’t matter. Also, I think they should blog about the experiment to keep momentum.

  2. tom

    Worst part is that as of this morning, I can not download the album (too many downloads on my accounts)…
    I can’t get the songs….

    I guess I’ll get them by “other” means, as it is DRM free, and I paid for them…

    Too bad, but indeed, a bad execution in the order, and the delivery

  3. Daniel

    The WebSite sucks alot but the idea is great!
    I’ve been trying to download it for the past 20 minutes… I haven’t lost hope yet.. they should have made thing more simple, it’s a bit discouraging.

  4. anto

    maybe you could have found loads of errors, but the very big mistake is made by you my dear as the album title is “In Rainbows” with the “s”, that’s why is not registered. I’ve tried surfing and it works perfectly.

  5. Ryan

    Nice catch my friend. I am a usability person and Radiohead head, and after seeing their much hyped page, I simply had to google [radiohead, usability]. This site was #3. I think a certain amount of obscurity could be appropriate here, since users can be expected to be willing to explore a bit, assuming they don’t care about people who wander in cold. But this is just clumsy, and not charming. Still, I am wireframing tonight and will be listening to this album while I work. Cheers, -Ryan

  6. Lia Mark

    There is not a 1 GBP minimum, you Genius of Technology, and if you would like to wire more than 99, you should just write an e-mail.

  7. dustin Post author

    anto: you are right. I was using information off the la times, which issued a correction after I blogged about it.

    An article in Tuesday’s Section A about Radiohead’s decision to let buyers who pre-order its new album decide the price gave the name of the album as “In Rainbow.” The correct title is “In Rainbows.”

  8. Dubl

    The site is fine just the way it is. If someone wants the new album they google radiohead. First link and they’re into the inrainbows site, where it’s a logical funnel to checkout. Doesn’t get any easier IMO. ATTN inrainbow webmaster: GOOD JOB! nice simple presentation, no ads, maintains interesting original atmosphere radiohead brings to the things it touches.

  9. Gregg

    I am not a super techno so was pleased to get on the site, make a purchase for 2 quid, that’s 5 bucks with a 45p service charge and have the download show up and playing right in my itunes directory within three minutes. I do have to say that the website was so spartan that I thought maybe someone was scamming my credit card number but all turned out OK and the music is pure Radiohead! Love this.

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  11. ed

    I can’t wait for the download to finish. I feel bad about not paying such amazing artist who don’t follow every damn trend into the ground like so many others. I’m glad I can still hear real music before the world is controlled by one power.. good luck my brothers and sister!! revolution!!!!!!!!!

  12. bene

    dear o dear, these guys are trying to do something to combat the trend of illegal downloading which is wrecking an industry integral to their success, they’re pioneering not only in their music, but in their desire to strive for fairness, and all you can do is bitch about their website! they’re the first to practise such a thing, so theres going to be kinks, but thats how everything starts. as for a ‘mistake’ in being sold only in GBP? they are a british band!

  13. pookster

    I agree with bene, i am a web developer and like sites keep to web standards but come on the music can is so cheap and also make a big change in the way we buy music who really cares, do the average user really right click and view source, yeah right! I cetainly did not bother on a site like this, even if i did and it was rubbish, so what. Lets look at googles home page, 46 errors and 6 warnings, you not going to use it mmm lol.

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