It has been said by many people already: “In Rainbows can be the end of the music industry as we know it.” But, as has also been pointed out all over the place, what Radiohead has done can only be done by already established acts with a devoted, loyal fan base. A dependable talent for the fans to base their loyalty on helps too. Here’s the lowdown on what happened with their new record if you’ve been living under a rock.
I still think this could totally flip the way the music industry works. Right now, bands may (roughly) follow this path to stardom: They form, develop their sound, and independently do everything. After creating some buzz by doing bigger and bigger gigs they may sign to an indie label. Then they do well here and they get picked up by a major, losing their too-hip-for-mainstream fans in the process. From there, they sign a big, glitzy contract with the majors and constantly fight to strike that balance between meeting the bottom line of the corporate minded label and finding ways to explore their artistic expressions. After being successful at that while increasing their fanbase and gaining credibility with critics, they are free to do whatever they please. In Radiohead’s case, they make two of the best albums in rock history then go off and blip and beep their way to hovering somewhere between mediocre and good…then leave their label to release an album in a revolutionary way (more on that album later).
Now, with this crazy stunt that Radiohead pulled, it seems the Major Labels (and any other label, including the adorable and innocuous indie labels) seem to have possibly been relegated to the role of initially building and then maintaining that loyal fan-base for artists and bands. And in this future, hypothetically possible case, when the band gets “big enough,” instead of moving on to a huge record label, they get promoted to Independent status, like Radiohead is with the release of this album. The goal is to become Indie! (Hipsters everywhere will be like the happiest people ever.) Wow…that would be brilliant. I haven’t thought about this much but so far it seems pretty brilliant in my mind.
The record labels will still be fine. They won’t be as rich, which might be cause for desperate attempts at thwarting this movement (see: Who Killed the Electric Car). But however much the big, bad record labels might hate it, their roles will finally be exactly what they should be: discovering and promoting real talent and getting it to a point where the talent, and not marketing prowess, speaks for itself. And true, valid, legitimate art with real value becomes the ultimate goal, as it should be. If artists are truly talented, they will make it through to the final step and have that acclaim and freedom to try to make even greater art.
Some takes from around the, uh, Internets:
New York Times – “Radiohead Fans, Guided by Conscience (and Budget)”
The Mac Weekly – “Will Radiohead Change the Music Industry Next Week?
Time – “Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want”
liftwhileclimbing.wordpress.com – “The Music Wars: Radiohead’s Rainbow Coalition”
The last guy offers an interesting take, in that the artist/bands themselves learn how to monitor markets and set the right price points for themselves as they grow — or at least be closely involved with the people they pay to do it for them. I guess that’s the role of the record labels in my analysis above. But yeah, that’s another good thing. The artists would be free to be independent from start to finish now. Even if it’s a difficult way to do it, having that freedom would be great.
As for the Album Itself?
I will post the title of each track and one thing I like about it, then follow that up with some wrap-up thoughts on the album. (more…)
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