Thanks to Radiohead, the internet *finally* has the record companies' attention

Susi Weaser Tech 3 Comments

Remember 2001, when it was decided that the record industry was going to be brought to its knees by peer to peer sharing? Remember yesterday, when last time we checked, there was still a thriving record industry? But it seems that there is going to be a casualty of all this music/internet/democracy malarky, but don’t worry. It’s going to be those megalithic-like record companies. And who’s to blame? Thom Yorke.

Radiohead has made their latest album, In Rainbows, available for download without the support of a record company. The twist? They’re inviting people to pay exactly what they want for it. So, you could bag a copy of their new release for as little as 1p, or you could offer to pay the going rate for an album. You could even pay £40 for a special edition box set, complete with artwork, additional songs and vinyl copies. So far, people appear to be using this ‘honesty box’ system, well, honestly.

The bands spokesperson has said that “so far most people are giving the amount they would pay for a regular CD [at retail price].” Wow. So we can really be trusted. It seems Nine Inch Nails think so, since they’ve just followed Radiohead and announced that they’ve left their record company and will pursue “a direct relationship with the audience as I [Trent Reznor] see fit and appropriate”.

Does this spell the end of record companies dictating to both the artists and the public?

The boss of EMI had a confidential email leaked this week (don’t worry, happens to the best of us) which had him telling his staff that they needed to wake up, or risk losing other big artists to this new ‘straight to the fans’ business model. He suggested that rather than relying on CD sales, the industry should look at downloading and the internet as a creative opportunity. About bloody time, we say.

EMI has taken a baby step this week, by announcing that the first 4,000 customers to buy the new Bluetooth Parrot Party speakers from John Lewis will receive a free download of the new Chemical Brothers album. OK, so it’s not a revolutionary promotion, but it illustrates that they see downloading as the future.

But record companies aren’t the only people to find problems with this new fangled internet malarky. Harvey Goldsmith, Led Zeppellin tour promotor and person I once sat next to, has launched an attack on eBay, after hundreds of tickets for the sell out gigs appeared on eBay. Not mincing his words, he declared in Kerrang that “I wish eBay would drop dead and die… I have begged them to take [the tickets] off and they have basically told us to fuck off. So I will do everything I possibly can to ruin their lives.” Glorious, glorious man.

It seems the future really is in your hands, if you’re prepared to be honest about it. If you haven’t had a look into getting Radiohead’s new album, check it out here. But don’t pay 1p. That’s not cool. If you want to sell your tickets ethically, try a site like ScarletMist, where you can’t list them for more than their purchase price.

By Susi Weaser | October 9th, 2007

Must read posts:

  • Frank Kensington

    This is all fine and well for established bands, with a large, strong following… but what about new, budding artists? Established bands may be able to have fans big enough to pay in a “honesty system”, but fans who don’t know the artist aren’t going to reach too far in their pocket, then where will the money come for touring, album producing, equitment etc… how could people make a living from music? It will be just a bunch of amatures playing in their local bars, or traveling out of state at six flags… And I understand the internet has obviously changed things… but honestly, how hard is it to just get your lazy bum out of the house to buy a cd? I’m still buying my cds… even if i’m the last person out there…

  • Nick Harbaugh

    Frank, I understand where you’re coming from. Right now this is certainly a strategy that can only be employed by large bands with a lot of pull and a massive fan base, like Radiohead. However, the point is that someone has finally come up with a way to combat the tyrannical record industry. I respect that you take the time to purchase CDs, I do too–there is certainly something to be said about owning a tangible object, complete with lyric booklet, etc. However, I still have a problem with it for two reasons. One: these CDs are, by and large, exorbitantly overpriced. And two: artists usually see only pennies for every CD sold. How could this possibly be an ethical business practice? I will not sit by and calmly observe the gluttonous exploitation of art.

    The point is that this is a start. And, as with anything, one must start somewhere. And… Radiohead is just the band to lead the charge.

    Susi: Loved the post. It’s nice to know there are others out there who share my views about sticking it to the bloated swillmerchants in the record industry. I’m going insane with anticipation for In Rainbows. I can’t wait!

  • bod

    When kid A was leaked before its release and shared all over the internet people thought it would stop the album selling, but it did the opposite.

    I’m in a small ( but well known in its circles) band and we offer about 2/3 of our ablum free online 7 to be honest it is through free mp3’s that I’ve discovered about half of my favourite bands, bands that I now own the CD’s for all their albums.

    The other advantage radiohead has is that they’re getting all the money from the downloads… I’ve had one self published album and one through a record company and I had to sell 1000’s of the latter compared to 100’s to make any decent money. This is something which is really important for smaller bands.

    I disagree that Radioheads plan works only for well known groups. Free downloads (legal) have let me discover amazing and obscure groups I would never have found if i’d have had to pay. And for these I’ve gone on to become a real fan and pay for hard albums and get to their full catalogue.

    I think the next step would be an mp3 site which lets bands make their own page and really customise the download options. Maybe they want some tracks for free/honesty and/or full album downloads, maybe they want people to download a booklet with it as well.

    And if it was really driven from the bands end ( the website could take just a tiny fraction say <5% of revenue for hosting.) Then the bands could be giving away tracks free and maybe selling albums for £2 and they’d still be making more than from royalties.