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Anderson, Radiohead offer freebies

Artists give up money for wider audiences

Established artists are giving it away for free.

Wes Anderson‘s new short film “Hotel Chevalier” and Radiohead’s upcoming album “In Rainbows” can be found online for the cost of nothing at all.

Anderson’s short, which he produced and directed just before he went into production on “The Darjeeling Limited,” unspooled before the longer film on the fest circuit. But Apple’s iTunes offers a complimentary stay at the “Hotel,” while most of its other shorts are $1.99. Anderson touted the stability of the retailer’s interface to explain the partnership.

Radiohead, by contrast, is largely flying solo. The group didn’t renew its contract with EMI after 2003’s “Hail to the Thief” and has been unsigned for three years — long enough to produce “In Rainbows,” which will be distributed via digital download on Radiohead’s website for whatever you want to pay (including nothing). The band has long avoided iTunes, bemoaning the web retailer’s practice of selling albums track-by-track rather than as a unit.

It’s not an entirely new practice — fledgling musicians have MySpace pages with free downloads. But Anderson and Radiohead have commercial viability. It’s just that neither are cashing in on it with these efforts.