The news that most people who downloaded the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows (which Eyewear selected as the best of 2007), paid nothing for it, is a disappointment for all those hoping for a new alignment between artists, writers, musicians, and those who frequent cyberspace. I am not too worried for the Oxford band, since they will soon release the album as a physical item, on a label, and it well sell well - and they would have still made over £2 million digitally, as well. Still, it seems like a somewhat cynical, and short-sighted vote by the overall community of web-users who decided that clicking to pay nothing was a gesture of either goodwill, or even generosity.
Instead, that 2/3s click to download for free was freeloading. Freeloading is, as all flatmates who have had a freeloader know, parasitical - it ultimately kills the host. The net is a space well-suited to free material (I believe poets should share as copyleft more of their work) but it also, if it is to ever develop into the main portal of cultural dialogue which in some ways it already is, should keep in mind that in the term social networking is also the word social. Too often, anti-social networking is done, instead. One hopes this experiment on the part of Radiohead will not turn out to, ironically, discourage other bands from trying something similar (even as the pint-sized Prince seeks to penalise those online who seek to form his fanbase).