In Melbourne, there’s a restaurant where you pay what you think the food’s worth called Lentil as Anything. It’s as much a test of your meanness as it is of the degustation menu.

Radiohead has now adopted a similar policy — the band has told fans they can pay what they want to download their latest album, In Rainbows. Mental as anything? You decide.

It’s “less a model for the future of the music business than a moral experiment on human nature,” says Neil McCormick in London’s Telegraph. Sure, though you can bet the music industry’s interest in people’s ethical behaviour will stretch only so far as it can be best exploited for profit.

Whether the results can be extrapolated at all is harder to predict. The mere fact that Radiohead is unsigned — so the money doesn’t pass via those greedy record label fat cats but directly from audience to band — is enough of a variable to throw the results.

What will fans actually pay? Notes the Telegraph:

A poll on blog site idolator.com has found more than 80 per cent of fans willing to pay, with almost 40 per cent opting for a price between £1.01 and £4.99. By comparison, an album on iTunes is £7.99, so it would appear Radiohead are going cheap. Yet Radiohead have a wide enough fan base to attract a significant number of orders for the full £40 package (CD and vinyl copies, extra tracks).

And you can’t underestimate the advertising value of an unusual ploy picked up by a hungry media, resulting in more sales even if at a lower price.

Marketing 101 aside, for Crikey it’s an excuse for a High Fidelity-inspired competition.

Email us ([email protected] with “My top 5” in the subject line) with your Top 5 albums, detailing what you’d pay for them today and why. We’ll pick the Top 5 responses and dole out cash based on what we think they’re each worth (either that or $25 iTunes vouchers).

To kick off, here are some Crikey staff’s all-time favourites and what they’d fork out:

Jonathan Green, editor:

  1. Joy Division, Closer: $500 but priceless really
  2. Damned, Machinegun Etiquette: 20c Give them nothing
  3. TV Eye Live, Iggy Pop: $100. Bowie era Iggy rehab cabaret. Splendid.
  4. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust etc, David Bowie: $100. The first album I ever bought. I must have it.
  5. Highway to Hell, AC/DC: A bucket of vomit.

Christian Kerr, former DJ:

  1. Sulk, The Associates: Obscure. Expensive?
  2. Computer World, Kraftwerk: $60. I’ve got this album in English and German, so I’m obviously prepared to pay for it twice.
  3. Five Great Gift Ideas from the Reels, The Reels: Who remembers The Reels by Request tours, when you’d shout out the songs you wanted to hear? Nowadays they’d auction them off. My opening bid? $50 for Band of Gold alone.
  4. For Your Pleasure, Roxy Music: What’s the exchange rate? How many sequins to the dollar?
  5. The Clash, The Clash: Steal this record.

Thomas Hunter, current DJ:

  1. Kind Of Blue, Miles Davis: $1000 = $1 dollar for every listen
  2. Machine Gun, Commodores: $8 second hand. The funkiest A-side ever committed to vinyl. No correspondence will be entered into. (Honourable mentions: Bob Marley, Erykah Badu)
  3. The Secret Tapes of Dr Eich, Paperclip People: $25 for getting a simple formula right.
  4. Based On A True Story, Fat Freddy’s Drop: $150. The cheapest anti-gravity device going around.
  5. Doggystyle, Snoop Dogg: Ironic feminist treatise on intergender relations. $1.50 for the courage.

Jade Barry, knows a DJ:

  1. She’s so Unusual, Cyndi Lauper: Beyond price. Her concert completed me!
  2. Elephunk, Black Eyed Peas: $10 but could probably get it for free.
  3. Hot Fuss, The Killers: $50 — great when taking the feral train.
  4. Love.Angel.Music.Baby, Gwen Stefani: $30 she makes me wanna dance.
  5. Let Go, Avril Lavine: I wouldn’t. Too ashamed.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW