Radiohead charts a new course


Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 2009

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 2036

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 1997

Warning: Illegal string offset 'status_txt' in /home/keithk6/public_html/processedsound/wp-content/plugins/share-and-follow/share-and-follow.php on line 2026

Musically speaking, Radiohead explores new territory as constant practice. But with their new release, In Rainbows, Radiohead is shaking up the model for selling and distributing music. In a bold, and perhaps Utopian experiment, the band is releasing a downloadable version of the entire “record” for whatever price each individual purchaser wishes to pay. Listeners can choose to pay nothing at all, or as much money as they want. There is no negotiation, just a bid. All bids accepted.

Of course lot of musicians have sold their music online, but this is different. Radiohead has never offered its music through iTunes, mainly because it wants to sell entire albums – not individual tracks. (Other groups, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, stayed out of iTunes for a a long time for similar reasons.) But almost everyone puts a price on their music, whether it is the iTunes one-size fits all price, or some other variant. In an article in the New York Times, one record executive called it “variable pricing to the extreme,” a dig at iTunes.

While the Times talks about the challenge to iTunes and the monolithic structure of the music recording industry (four global corporations dominate the industry), Radiohead is also making a direct challenge to the notion of copyright. In fact, the two things go together. In a dramatic change from the 70′s and earlier times, pop artists make little if any money from their record releases. Concerts provide the real financial windfall. Why? Record corporations charge exceedingly high costs back to the groups, so on paper at least, there aren’t a lot of profits to distribute back to the artist. At the same time, major corporations have been successfully lobbying the U.S. and other governments to extend the copyright period to such great lengths that the original intent of “securing exclusive rights for a limited time” becomes a joke.

And this takes us to what might be the best thing to happen to the music industry, from pop to (especially) classical. If strategies such as the one Radiohead is employing can lead to a greater emphasis on making music, rather than preserving it and re-releasing it, then music could find a new model for economic survival not pegged to the rise and fall of CD sales.

Alex Ross, among many, has blogged about the record release, calling it “the death of popular music (as we know it). He also has a substantial previous post about the band and one of the very interesting artists, Christoph de Babalon, that often opens its shows.

One Response to Radiohead charts a new course

Leave a Reply