Reversing the Numbness

Monday, October 8, 2007

Radiohead's Golden Ticket

You've all heard by now that Radiohead's soon-to-be-released new album, In Rainbows, due out in a mere two days, is not being released on a major label but will instead be available exclusively on Radiohead's website for a price to be determined by the purchaser.

It's up to you. No really, it's up to you.

I think the whole thing has a Willy Wonka feel to it. The reclusive geniuses have been holed away working on god-knows-what and now, out of the blue, they drop the crazy news that their mystery album will be released in a handful of days, and fans can download it for whatever they want to pay! The announcement generates a storm of worldwide press that nearly crashes the band's website and lands them millions of dollars worth of free publicity in magazines and newspapers, on television shows, and of websites and blogs. It reminds me of the part in the movie where Wonka, a reclusive genius who had been holed away working on god-knows what, dropped the crazy news that there were five Golden Tickets in Wonka Bars, all good for tours of Wonka's candy factory, and the whole world went ape shit.

From the Wik: Wonka's eccentric behavior, inventions, ignoring the rules of science and self imposed isolation and paranoia classify him as a Mad Scientist.

I'm on the email lists of a bunch of music promoters, including Radiohead's U.S. publicity company, Nasty Little Man. This is an e-mail I got from them last week:

There will be no advances, promotional copies, digital streams, media sites, etc. of RADIOHEAD's In Rainbows.

Everyone in the world will be getting the music at the same time:
Oct. 10. That includes us. We don't have anything to play anyone in
the nine days until the record is available. Everyone at nasty has
put his or her order in and just to clarify: you are not being asked
to pay for a promo (as some have inquired). you can pay nothing or as much or as little as you want.

There will be no promotional copies of the discbox either, as each
discbox is being made to order. Sorry.
I can only imagine how inundated they were with e-mails from magazine types after the buzz began.

I read an article on the move in the latest issue of Time magazine, and there are many in the already battered record industry who are afraid of what this new "model" will do to their bottom line. (One record company exec said, "If you can pay whatever you want for music by the best band in the world, why would you pay $13 or 99 cents for music by somebody less talented?") Radiohead insists they're not trying to come up with a new business model, but instead that they just really want everyone to get their music at the same time.

I bet it's really about control though. About controlling their music, their marketing efforts, their schedules. Their business. Their lives. Imagine what an nightmare it must be to produce a big-time record. Imagine how many people are involved in that process, pulling at your art and time in every direction like it's some kind of (Wonka) taffy, trying to find as many ways as they can to make as much money off of you as they possibly can.

Oh and by the way, which one's Pink?

If that's the price you have to pay to make a living doing what you want, so be it. But what if that price is unnecessary? I'm sure Radiohead will still make millions on the digital downloads, even with voluntary pricing. (I plan on paying four pounds, which is like eight bucks, I believe.) Considering that a band doesn't even make 20 percent on album sales these days when they're with a record company, the potentially slightly less revenue is a small price to pay for eliminating all of that other crap, especially when you already have all the money you'll ever need. (And they've got a major tour on the way in 2008, where they'll clean up anyway. The DM and I will see them live, that's for sure. Probably a couple of times.)

Yep, Radiohead is in control. They've used their insane new scheme to weed out all of the liars, the gluttons, the spoiled, ill-behaved cretins who only wanted to juice them for all they could get, and they're passing their music on on their own terms.

Oompa loompa, indeed.

Ten years ago this Friday -- on the DM's birthday, in Raoul Duke's North Carolina apartment -- was the day we discovered OK Computer.


josh williams said...

My brah in law recorded his entire CD by himself, all instruments, digital mastering and a damn cool T Shirt. The name of the CD is California Killers the inspiration for the name is based on any CD produced out of the state of California is killing the industry...Its a great CD and a Cool T shirt, all by the same artist. Pretty cool...Not to mention Radio Head's approach...hella cool. Today is hella cool day, and Columbus day...

getto said...

Okay, I'll bite.

Hattica said...

Wow, man, insane association with this new Radiohead effort and Willy Wonka. I'm still scarred from the first time I watched them ride down the chocolate river and into that jacked up tunnel of bad acid trip nightmares. I can still feel my stomach get light as they rocketed up the elevator shaft at the end and shot out of the factory.

This seems like a brilliant concept. Pay as much or little as you wish, huh? I would imagine they have some "high end" fans that will pay $100's then some people just getting off over buying an albums for a buck.

Rob Zero said...

When the Jukebox Zeros were in LA, we had lunch with an A&R man from Hollywood Records. (It was purely coincidence...he wasn't interested.)

Anyway, he was telling a story about Radiohead's relationship with Capitol Records. Based on what he said, this is likely an attempt by Radiohead (and Capitol) to fulfill the contract, and experiment with a new distro system.

SleekPelt said...

josh: I'd like to check his stuff out, Josh. Does he have a MySpace dealio?

geto boy: If you are wise you'll listen to me.

hattica: You can actually get it for free, and I'm sure many will take that option.

rob: That's nonsense. It doesn't correlate to Willy Wonka in any way!

Zee said...

Rob beat me to it, but that was my thought as I read this as well.

Nonetheless, anything that kicks the record industry in the nuts is welcome by me. Of course, Radiohead are not innovators of this idea....Wilco was the first to release a new album via free download (the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). It was right after they got dropped by Interscope (I think) because YHF wasn't "commercial" enough and they refused to re-mix it. they just gave it away for free and made their money touring behind it.

Of course, they did eventually sign with a Record Co. (owned by the same parent company as the one that dropped them, Sony) and then the album hit stores, etc. etc. It went gold or platinum or something even after giving away thousands and thousands and thousands for free.

The Dalai Mama said...

Rob Zero: Now I'm confused. I thought Radiohead is not currently signed with any record label.

Anyway, I absolutely can't wait until tomorrow to hear the new stuff. I also cant' wait to (hopefully) see multiple Radiohead shows in '08. They are the most amazing live band I've ever seen. I mean really. It's mind-blowing. I'm not too surprised they decided to go this route with their new album. Totally seems to jive with their personal beliefs.

Chud said...

There is so much talent out there that is not on the commercial radar, like this guy, who makes me want to learn the ukelele.

SleekPelt said...

zee: Facts, schmacts. This is a Willy Wonka fantasy! Did you see the Oompa Loompa cover at the end? No comments on that?

dm: Yes, DM, we will see us some Radiohead in '08. NYC, DC, Chicago?

chud: That guy is a bad ass. I bet he can tear up a classical guitar. (Though 1.5 million views puts him on the radar!) Watch Friday Music for lots of undiscovered talent.

Raoul Duke said...

can't wait for the new album tomorrow. WOW, 10 years ago. (Another gray hair appears on head courtesy of Sleek).

They are by FAR the best live concert I have ever seen and can think of no other band that I would pay as much money to see. For those that haven't, it is a MUST.


josh williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
josh williams said...

his my space delio is...

getto said...

Just downloaded my copy. Haven't had a chance to give it a full listen yet, but I like what I have heard so far. Thanks for the heads up Sleek!

~d said...

I will be back with something JUST FOR DM

But for the time being:


~d said...

i so totally suck ass at addition. Is DM's b-day on the 12th?!
So I have another daay to prepare!!??

SleekPelt said...

rd: Toronto on the Kid A tour was the best show I ever saw, easily.

josh: I'll check it out later.

geto boy: Enjoy, you're most welcome.

~d: Yep, Oct. 12.

Okay, now ...

... hitting play. Joy.

SleekPelt said...

Okay. I don't smoke, but I need a cigarette.


The Dalai Mama said...

RD: I would definitely shell out some bucks for good seats at a Radiohead show. Last time we had good seats (which we didn't pay for, btw), but we choose to take Annelies when she was just 18 months old. So, we sat on the lawn. It was her first out-of-utero Radoihead experience. She saw them when I was pregnant too!

The Dalai Mama said...

~d: That was cool. Wish you could've seen the freaky break-dance(ish?) moves that Sleek started doing all over the living room when he heard it!

SleekPelt said...

dm: I'm nothing if not a freaky breakdancer. I hear the old-school beats and I just can't contain myself. Someone get me some cardboard!

spooge said...

Prince gave away one of his albums didn't he?

I think this whole "kicking the industry in the nuts" thing is getting blown out of proportion.

I not that big a fan of Radiohead, if was, i'd probably think this is a bigger deal.

It'll definitely expose their music to more people, which is what any true artist is in it for anyway.

Two things are more interesting to me:
1. How much they'll charge for their next record, and,
2. this dude had a third ear implanted into his that's freaky deaky...

Zee said...

Spooge- Prince did give away the album Musicology...but I think it was only handed to people who attended the concert. I got over on him though...I had a free ticket to that show, so I got one without spending a red cent (other that the $75 I shelled out for like 3 beers).

I do hear ya about being tired of how "cool" it is to hate on the record industry, but it isn't without reason: The RI does not care one tiny little whit about the quality of an artist or the music it promotes. Its all about what kind of half-assed image you can sell to high school kids. The big label guy that Rob and I had lunch with in LA pretty much confirmed everything bad that people think about big Record Cos. And the worst part is that that particular guy really cared about music...but he was very realistic about what he had to do in order to keep his job....sign horrible bands that can be "packaged" by label in a commercially viable way. And thats what he does.

spooge said...

zee: what I meant is that I've been hearing about how this stunt is "going to turn the music industry upside down." I don't think it will. I don't really think it's a big deal.

You're totally right about the industry on the money end though. It all comes down to money. And the sooner these young bands find that out, the better. It's totally "cool" for them all to hate on "Big Music" but i guarantee, you hand them a shitty deal, and they jump at the chance.

However, most musicians are lazy and don't want to do the work themselves. Then, when it doesn't work out, they blame "the industry" or "the suits" which may have done honest work, therefore, the entire industry gets a bad name. It's just like any other industry, lots of scumbags, lots of legit people.

With technology growing, the internet and home recording, more control is being handed to the artist. The lazy artist.

When these younger bands start turning DOWN record deals, that's when you'll see the music industry turned upside down. But so far, let the exploitation and bitterness continue...

Zee said...

Ahhh...I did take you out of context, Spooge. I do see what you mean.

And yes,I could not agree more about your assessment. Artistic integrity is easy to have when its all you have. You so right that almost any band would sell out for the money,regardless of their musical ethics. Hell, I remember talking to girl named Ryder (sp?) of the semi-known band Nashville Pussy about ten years ago at a small venue called Upstairs at Nicks in Philly. We were talking about "selling out." She said, "Hey, we'd LOVE to sell out. Where do we sign up? If we knew HOW to sell out, we would."

Of course, changing their name would have been a good place to start, but her honesty was refreshing....and the sentiment surely pretty common, if not widely admitted.

The Dalai Mama said...

This conversation reminds me of Joseph Arthur, another extremely talented musician who decided not to re-sign with a label. He's on his own label now. He says he doesn't give a damn about how many records he sells. He just wants to play music and enjoy himself on his own terms. I think it's great.

spooge said...

i'm not sure how to put links in. but here is an article about a backlash on the new record.

i guess some fans are feeling slighted. apparently, the type of files available didn't allow for the "type of depth" Radioheads music needs to be enjoyed fully.

Let this be a lesson to all musicians. Never try to get ahead of the Man.

Apparently, Bobby Conn is more than an artist. He is a prophet.

SleekPelt said...

spooge: I heard about that too. I'm no audiophile, so I don't care, but I can see why a stickler would be bummed about a sub-standard bit-rate. Radiohead probably should have stated what the bit-rate was ahead of time. And Bobby Conn is more than a prophet; he's a god.