Bob Lefsetz, who is on a roll with this Radiohead story, says that the band should not be expected to know anything about the technical requirements of online distribution and should have gone with iTunes or Amazon who do. Bob says (can't link yet because I got this in email and it's not up on the web yet):
Maybe Radiohead didn't want to align with iTunes because the band only wanted its music sold as an album, but then why didn't they make a deal with Amazon, SOMEBODY WITH ENOUGH INFRASTRUCTURE!
That's what Apple and Amazon do all day. Fulfillment. Rag on TicketMaster all you want, but believe me, it ain't easy to process all those requests. They ARE providing a service, however overpriced you might believe it is.
I agree with Bob's first point. Radiohead should not have to know anything about server loads, bandwidth, etc. But I disagree with his suggestion that they go with Amazon or iTunes. Amazon and iTunes are intermediaries who will get in the way of your relationship with your fans.
There are ways to get online distribution without giving up the direct relationship with the customer. You don't need Amazon or iTunes if you've got a direct relationship with millions of fans who will buy anything you come up with. What you need in that instance is a white label music distribution platform and there are a number of those if I am not mistaken.
Online distribution provides two functions, marketing and fulfillment. If you don't need the first, then you don't need Amazon and iTunes.