Radiohead are billing their new release as “the world’s first* (*perhaps) Newspaper Album,” except that no one really seems to know yet what that means. (A Style section? Funnies page? Wrapped in newsprint? Apparently, none of these. Chatter online seems to suggest they’re printing the artwork newspaper-style, which could be potentially cool. Update – readers agree the “first” honor belongs to Jethro Tull, at the very least.) They’re definitely pursuing the “kitchen sink” approach some beloved megastars of music embrace these days, with a CD and two vinyl records and downloads and artwork. There’s ecological packaging, too; someday, the music world will make up for all those awful plastic jewel cases we put in landfills.

I could tell you how much this costs, but that would depend on some complex mathematical calculus based on where you live and whether you opt for MP3 or WAV and the chance of whether there’s a Golden Ticket in the package and if your nation’s government has a Thom Yorke tariff. (The US Trade Representative is working on that.)

But in the US and Europe, at least, it appears to be a lot of stuff for a pretty accessible price – around US$50 / EUR 40 with all the artwork and vinyl and CD and downloads.

Anyway, it’s quite simple: click your country, opt for a WAV download, and Saturday, you’ll be listening to the new album, uncompressed. There – that wasn’t so bad, was it?

And it’s new Radiohead. Girls may not scream incessantly, they may never have played Ed Sullivan or gotten their own Rock Band/Guitar Hero game, and they’re just a band. But the reason this will spread across every music blog and Facebook page and Twitter post and Smorgasioo social network “bjork” and music fan mash-up today is because, hey, a whole lot of people are going to be really happy and listening to music Saturday. That sounds like a good thing to me.

Just remember – $14. Wav. You can pay with PayPal. That’s the easy way to go. It’s what I did. I’ll never understand why so many bands are compared to Radiohead when the comparison almost never holds. But we’re lucky to still have the original putting out music. Happy Valentine’s Day.

So, in the ephemeral digital age, how do you market and merchandise music? (There’s way more discussion on the Interwebs about the fact that “In Rainbows” was free.)

Interestingly, Radiohead – and loads of other top UK artists – are working with some folks called Sandbag:

They’re rather an interesting outfit: they do the e-commerce thing, like everyone else, with a pretty simple, no-brainer, international store for downloads. (Just went through the purchase process myself; we’ll see how downloads go Saturday.) That puts them in a league with countless others. But their twist is that they also do global physical fulfillment, and “ethical” physical goods and manufacturing. That puts them in a league with – well, a league of their own. It earned the UK-based firm a Grammy.

They also do webcasting and ticketing, though the latter is so dominated by the Ticketmaster empire, that sounds more like an uphill battle.

But if you’re looking just at the free “In Rainbows” and the paid “King of Limbs,” you’re missing a lot of what’s happened in the intervening time. Artists and the vendors who work with them have begun working on new ideas for how to sell music and merch. And some of that innovation, by necessity, can’t just be ephemeral – it means working out how to make physical goods and ticketing and events work, too, and not just in one country but worldwide.

From the ashes of the old music business, in other words, expect a lot of new music businesses, plural, to arise.