Radiohead Joins Google in Destroying Traditional Publishing & Media Companies

Radiohead announced that you can pay whatever you like for In Rainbows, the latest album from the best band in the world. A TIME article states:

Thom Yorke told TIME, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model."

And the record executives realize what is going on

"This feels like yet another death knell," emailed an A&R executive at a major European label. "If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business."

Artists will have to become publishers, and publishers will have to become artists. You don't need to sign a contract or jump on a plane to find customers. Anyone who has a blog with a following has no need for a publisher, outside of vanity.

Published: October 2, 2007 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


October 2, 2007 - 4:36pm

Even if you pay 0.00$ for the album (which still gives you access to the music once it is released), Radiohead's site now has my name, address, cell phone number and email. This is very valuable information in itself.

Giving away a free album is a great way to build a massive database of fans. If they're smart about it the can offer newsletters regarding concert dates, new t-shirts that the could offer through an ecommerce site, etc.

Finally! A band that realizes that downloading free music is nothing but added visibility to them, and an opportunity to market themselves right and make extra money without any middlemen in business suits (those are the real snake-oil salesmen). I hope the recording industry giants such as BMG and EMI, which have influenced most music music into the pathetic, pop, superficial and meaningless crap that is heard on the radio over and over, goes the way of the Dodo.

Thanks for the great post Aaron!

October 2, 2007 - 7:08pm

I love it! It's great to see somebody big like this adjust to the new music model rather than trying to police a failing system. Go Radiohead!

October 2, 2007 - 8:29pm

I'm in the queue for the zero pound download.

Music is still scarce. Positive demand at $0. And they've got the alternative revenue generating package right above the freebie.

Think about this--if an established act has to give their music away, what about the unknown (like one Robert K. Wolf? The playing field is flat--or is it? These guys can use the label history and their cred (and their deep connections) to make it news.

Any comments/insight on internet radio and how there's an attempt to stomp that with royalty rate increases?

I'll still love the heck out of the music, SEO'd or not. Long live the record companies.

Thanks for the great post.

insignificant flek
October 3, 2007 - 3:21am

For new bands an SEO group becomes the new "label"- promising a $ advance for production and promotion(meaning we'll take ownership of all your stuff until you can pay us back) and exposure on the web(instead of the radio)so people can hear the music before anyone knows it exists.
Let's see if Aaron opens an office in Nashville!
Established bands don't need a label as much as the label needs them. So nothing changes there. Since "illegal" file sharing is going on so much, it's tougher to see profits on the music sales for artists and labels anyway. They'll have to use royalties and their Star Power to make money- just as always.

October 3, 2007 - 4:17am

While I largely agree with oggy, they haven't quite figured out SEO. Radiohead isn't even trying rank for "Best Band In The World", although the Time article is showing up #6.

October 3, 2007 - 6:28am

But I don't think you market art via SEO. Rankings are about appealing to logic. Selling art is about appealing to emotions.

What Radiohead just did is far better than any SEO or marketer could have done for them.

insignificant flek
October 3, 2007 - 12:45pm

Ah, but R'head wouldn't be known to anyone without that marketer first. Maybe down at the corner bar they'd get recognized. The record label they curse is the entity fully responsible for us even knowing who they are to even discuss them and their "art" now.
The head of Sony Corp. said that song downloads may sell for as little as $.21 in the future.
--The only way to see profits above expenses on such a small figure is to drastically change the business model.
The one thing that won't change is that for undiscovered artists to become discovered by us all they, and their backers, need to get the art out in front of everyone to be heard in the first place. That used to be on the radio, but at $.21 a download or even $.99 the radio promo is becoming cost prohibitive.
If only there were some other way to get undiscovered talent in front of millions of people who search...
If only someone would write the definitive book on such a marketing plan...:)

October 3, 2007 - 6:47pm

But I don't think search has to be using keywords. Just as likely web users could listen to music on social sites devoted to music like Pandora. They can rate songs and those with good taste and finding good music sooner are given more voting power, and perhaps a finacial kickback of some sort.

insignificant flek
October 3, 2007 - 7:39pm

If I was in a band and I used the VERY HANDY keyword selector tool you've hooked us up with I would find nearly 11 million searchers every month for the words 'music download'.
-I don't know how many social sites could give me that kinda traffic.
-I don't know how many concerts I'd have to play for that kind of exposure.
If I was the president of a label I'd be ringin' your doorbell and begging you with gifts to help me put those searchers onto my acts (essentially that is the label/radio game). I'm not stretching the truth when I tell you the label will spend close to a half million to launch a new track from a star's new album on the radio. That's another blog altogether, but whatever the industry these times and circumstances on the web have put you in a very powerful position.

October 5, 2007 - 10:49am

Radiohead's idea is groundbreaking however what is imporant is not the embracing of an idea but its execution. And, after doing a bit of research, I think their execution has a number of shortcomings. Central is that the website Radiohead are using to release the album ( - hosted by a t-shirt company?!) has some potentially major pitfalls due to:

1) inadequacies in its hosting infrastructure and
2) the competencies of the technical team responsible for hosting the site.

What it boils down to is that Radiohead - by declining the option of getting a world class, experienced web hosting company to provide the vital infrastructure required for a venture as bold as this - are greatly increasing the risk of scuppering the whole thing.

I explored this is greater detail in a blog posting entitled Radiohead's Revolution to end in meltdown?

insignificant flek
October 6, 2007 - 9:02pm

-Right, a bad host may cost them big time by blowing opportunities that will not appear again.
It's the same with a deal with a bad label.
-The point is moot, however, with unknown bands because they have so little exposure/draw.
That's where they'd need a worthy label big time. But now why would a label invest in marketing to radio if the music is going to be downloaded and shared for free? But if the unknown band knew of guerila seo tactics they could create that splash without a label or radio...

October 6, 2007 - 1:57pm

Having a server go down sucks, but in some ways it may actually add to their marketing story. IE: stories like their launch was so successful that it actually took their server down, etc.

Trojan Fan
December 23, 2007 - 12:06pm

Most of the articles I've read on the subject deem Radiohead's release to be a complete success. Much like the old demo of Doom back in 1995, the amount of people who downloaded it for free far outpaced the number who paid for it. But a lot of people paid at least something (and Americans more than anyone else, according to stats). Calculating in the record label's cut and all associated costs, Radiohead made as much or more from this release than they did from their previous albums.

Trent Reznor apparently has now convinced a young artist under his wing Tardust to do the same. So we'll see if this new model will work for up-and-comers in addition to established bands with a dedicated following.

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