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Radiohead's new album could be watershed moment for music

British band tells fans to pay what they wish; move is first time a top act is attempting to promote and distribute an album without the backing of a record label.

Radiohead is known for such albums as 'The Bends' and 'OK Computer.' The band's contract with EMI expired in 2003. EMI

Editor's note: This blog initially misstated the format of the Prince album giveaway. They were CDs.

Radiohead, the band known for the hit songs "Creep," "Bullet Proof" and "Paranoid Android," announced on its Web site Sunday evening that fans can pay whatever they want for the band's new album, In Rainbows.

In addition to the digital version of In Rainbows, the group is also offering a boxed set of two 12-inch LPs and two CDs with artwork enclosed in a customized sleeve, for about $80. The site says that the merchandise will be shipped by December 3.

The band will release the digital album on October 10 but was taking preorders from its Web site on Monday.

The move is significant because it will be the first time a top act attempts to promote and distribute an album without the backing of a record label. Radiohead's contract with EMI expired in 2003.

Should the album generate respectable sales, it might be the encouragement other bands need to strike out on their own and cut out middlemen record companies. Scores of digital music fans have long claimed that the Internet makes music labels obsolete. They argue that musicians can distribute and promote their albums via the Web.

The move by Radiohead comes after Prince gave away copies of his new album, Planet Earth, through the British newspaper The Mail over the summer.