Why have Radiohead broken freetards' hearts?
One or two things you didn't know about In Rainbows...
Analysis As you may have heard earlier today, Radiohead's Thom Yorke says the band won't be repeating the band's digital deal which allowed users to download a version of its most recent album for free.
"I don’t think it would have the same significance now anyway, if we chose to give something away again," he said, describing it as a "one-off response to a particular situation".
That's despite the gimmick paying off handsomely - both in promotional terms, and financially. Radiohead have done better out of this deal than many pundits suppose - and I'll explain why in a moment. So why not do it again?
The short answer: the job's done, and they don't need to. Don't be fooled by the guilt-ridden, right-on rhetoric: this is a group of canny businessmen with offshore bank accounts. And so they make hard-headed calculations, as canny businessmen should.
A crisis in the Strategy Boutique
Radiohead's commercial goal was to recapture some of the huge worldwide audience that followed OK Computer a decade ago. It took almost four years to release new material. The back-to-back follows-ups, Kid A and Amnesiac, were self-consciously experimental.
In the meantime, Radiohead-influenced bands such as Muse and Arcade Fire had captured a slice of their former audience, the epic rock seekers. Competing with these arriviste pomp-rockers was risky, as the bumpy 2004 release Hail To The Thief made clear. So a more accessible direction was a natural course for Radiohead to take.
But back in Oxford, there was a big problem.
Radiohead had an upbeat title and the sunny, warmer graphics concept all set. The trouble was, there just wasn't a lot in the creative larder: all the band had was a few familiar riffs and mannerisms. These were more appealing on the surface than the Warp-influenced albums of 2001, but there wasn't very much you could hum. Or at least, you couldn't hum it without sounding like a faulty air conditioning unit.
In addition, Radiohead's refusal to deal with a strong outside personality - they'd been friends since school - ruled out the option of involving someone who could develop some of these odds and ends into another Karma Police - a Phil Spector type. So what they had, simply had to do.
Bring on the 'tards
The band had an ace up its sleeve, however. That huge former fanbase still viewed the fading memory of Radiohead with affection, and they'd been patiently waiting for three years since the last new material (excluding solo stuff). This was enough to create an instant buzz - and the band bet that enough of these fans were so dedicated as to pay twice: once for the "preview", and once for the physical release.
But it was the Music Freetards who catapulted Radiohead from the Culture pages in the papers into the Business Section, and even the front page. After a decade of digital music shenanigans, hacks were still asking the question, "What's the new Business Model?" To which the anti-copyright crowd replied: "give stuff away for free!" For hacks who can look no further than bloggers for their ideas, this was the cue they needed.
(Here are some field recordings samples of Music Freetards captured in their natural habitat, and doing what they love doing best - bullying and whinging.)
'When I want something, and I don't wanna pay for it...'
In Rainbows wasn't an especially cohesive work compared to past Radiohead efforts. There was stuff on CD2 ($old $eparatley) that ought to have been A-list tracks on CD1.
The eagle-eared amoung you will have noticed that Mr. Reznor has recently released a new Nails album, The Slip, wot is downloadable from the man himself fo' free, and will be made available of buying commercially later this summer.
And that is why the music industry survives...
"I bought the "low-bitrate version" for £8, 128Mbps [sic] is quite sufficient for me"
128kbps is sufficient for you to pay eight pounds? While I appreciate that there is listening to music from a technical standpoint, [worrying about bitrates etc], and enjoying music [just ignoring the technical side and getting your groove on] but I can tell the difference between 128kbps and FLAC through a pair of crappy desktop speakers. It's shocking, clear as day, and it pisses me off when I'm trying to *enjoy* an album. Which is why I still buy CDs of stuff I can't get in FLAC online that I have 'auditioned' in MP3.
And you paid eight quid for what is, quite literally, an seriously inferior copy of the original work? Would you pay £100,000 for an copy of a Ferrari 355 based on a Toyota MR2, with panel gaps a mile wide and a weeping head gasket? Because that's basically what you have done here.
For the record, get a FLAC [or CD, or other lossless media] copy of In Rainbows, you'll be astounded at how much richer, deeper and wider it sounds - it utterly fucking tranforms it through good headphones or speakers - the soundscape is quite diverse and 128kbps does it no justice at all.
And I think [personally, subjectively, etc] that In Rainbows, lossless, with lots of media content included, *would* be worth eight quid.
And that's what the record industry needs to wake up to, fast, if they want to retain their fat profit margins.
A few off-topic humorous (well, supposed to be) comments of mine didn't make it past the iron-fisted moderation. I guess I'll have to behave this time.
I'm really opposed to the "paytard" approach, because the money doesn't go anywhere near the artist's pocket, but is mainly used to buy luxury yachts and to thwart independent artists and small labels. But as a (hobbyist) musician and composer myself, I take lines like "you can play an instrument, doesn't mean that you desserve being paid" pretty bad. Hey, you can use a computer, doesn't mean that you desserve to be paid for that. You can code in a few languages, doesn't mean that you desserve to be paid for that. You can add up numbers on an Excel (barf) spreadsheet, doesn't mean that you desserve to be paid for that. Some of you might even be able to manage a network, but it doesn't mean they should be paid for that. How does that sound now? I can use a computer, I can use a spreadsheet (though I prefer reliable software), I can code (quite simple) things in a few "real" programming languages (plus a few script languages), I can manage a network quite well (though I'm probably not up to keeping a large world-facing network totally safe by myself) and I can also play an instrument (several, actually, and nothing easy). I get paid for my (limited) computer skills, I get paid for other skills as well, I don't usually get paid for my music. But if I were to issue a record or something, I sure hope I'd be paid for that! Music do require a lot of work, more work than the typical office position actually. And thousand times more work than the typical RIAA exec does.
Music sharing has nothing to do with not paying the artist, so here is my message for the "music has no intrinsic value" crowd (including the very few real freetards, the major labels, the RIAA, MPAA, and the like): go rot in hell. Please. You're just polluting the debate.