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Natalie Merchant says that she’s waiting for “a new paradigm for the recording industry” before she releases another album, and, well, it’s not clear that it’s here.
The sales figures for the hard-copy, available-in-stores version of Radiohead‘s In Rainbows are in, and they’re pretty good for a record that was first released as a name-your-price download last October. According to the NYT, the album SoundScanned 122,000 copies in its first week.
That’s not as good as Hail to the Thief, which debuted at 300,000. But pretty good compared to Kid A, which sold 207,000, and Amnesiac, which sold 231,000.
Of course, comparing this stuff has its limitations. There’s no way of knowing whether In Rainbows would’ve sold 300,000 in its first week even if the digital and hard copy versions were all available on the same day. (Many of the band’s ’90s peers, such as PJ Harvey and Bjork, are experiencing declining sales with each new album.)
But, as the NYT article points out, one thing is clear: The In Rainbows experiment doesn’t quite signal the death rattle for the hard copy. After all, not every technological advancement is an A+ improvement over what came before. As Steven Shapin, pointed out in this book review, e-mail, for example, is great, but there are certain aspects of one of its predecessors, the pneumatic tube, that it just can’t touch.