Here’s hoping that today will go down as a watershed date in the music industry—the day that a mass-market band finally got it right. I’m talking about the English rockers Radiohead and their innovative distribution model for their new album, In Rainbows, which was released for digital download today.

Rather than wait for it to be leaked online well before its physical release, the band decided to publish the recently completed album to the Web themselves, forgoing the many months of promotion and planning that usually come between an album’s completion and its arrival in stores. Better yet, the band allowed each downloader to pay whatever they wanted for the DRM-free record—anything from two cents to, well, hundreds of dollars if you were so inclined.

The beauty of this is that nearly every music fan I know (most of whom haven’t paid for music in years) was excited to buy this album. Excited because they could pay a very small amount of money, sure, but also because they knew it was going straight to the band they admired and not to a record company. They were also excited to play it however they wanted, on an unlimited number of MP3-capable devices or CDs, without DRM restrictions.

Radiohead discovered something important today: Once customers are not theoretically required to put up money for an album that they were going to download for free anyway, they instantly become more excited about actually paying money for it. It certainly also helps if the album is fantastic, which In Rainbows is. Let’s hope other major bands and labels follow suit. The future is now! —John Mahoney

Buy it here –