So Radiohead did a really cool thing by releasing their latest album In Rainbows on their own website with a “pay as much as you think it’s worth” model. Very cool. Major labels are dead! Woo! And then Trent Reznor announced that Nine Inch Nails are now officially label-free. Jamiroquai and Oasis (ick - Blur is better!) also came out with promises to do similarly. Then Madonna signed a huge contract with Live Nation (not a real record company) to release some albums. The tide is shifting. Amazon and iTunes and EMusic all sell DRM-free music, and more and more people are starting to learn what that actually means. Good things, yeah. The record industry is in shambles! But where am I going with this?
Well, where I’m going is into the irony in the perception that Radiohead is leading this artist revolt. Why is this ironic? Because they also just announced that they will be releasing In Rainbows on CD with a major label. But of course they said this after they already got money from their most loyal fans (and other DRM-free advocates) for a low-bitrate version of an album with no packaging.
Die-hard fans may argue that they’d have purchased the online version (and paid the same for it) even if they knew of its forthcoming release on disc, but to the casual observer (and the hardcore DRM-free, labels-must-die revolutionaries), this looks like little more than a (brilliant, yes) marketing stunt.
“Let’s pretend like we’re changing the business so that people talk about us on blogs and television and newspapers and the anarchist torrent leechers actually pay for our record on principle and then people everywhere will love us and worship us as the band who changed the world even though everyone knows that U2 is the coolest because Bono is the MAN and isn’t sad what’s happening in Africa then we’ll sell lots of records because our bestest fans will buy it twice or three times at least and we’ll sell concert tickets to kids who weren’t even alive when “Creep” was on the radio which oh god was so long ago and why doesn’t anyone care about us anymore please please care hey look at me look at me we have a new album...”
I mean, Radiohead is cool and all, but this move is pretty lame.
Who knows, maybe I’m just bitter than Radiohead refuses to sell their music on the iTunes Store because they are against selling single tracks (on artistic grounds). Of course, they, like everybody, do this anyway when they release “singles.” More hypocrisy? I guess we’ll see if they’ve changed their ways if they refuse to let their record company release a single from In Rainbows.
What do you think?