In Radiohead’s Web: The Internet and Muzak


In case you hadn’t heard, Radiohead are planning on releasing their new album The King of Limbs on Saturday. The news beneath the news? The album will be released as the first ever Newspaper Album, meaning you get the ‘news’ (the music) in an intangible format (digital) before you get to hold the full article and associated commentary (vinyls, CD and artwork – in newspaper format across 625 pieces of mini-artwork) on 9th May.

Radiohead of course have history in using the web as a serious distribution channel, famously releasing their 2007 album In Rainbows by allowing people to pay whatever they wanted for it. In RainbowsWhile the band claimed it was a philosophical move, interested in what value people were willing to place on music, what it really did was highlight the ability to cut out the middleman (record companies, A&R men, CD production and shipping), get it to the masses in the quickest possible way and acknowledge the beginning of the end of physical media as the ‘mainstream’ way of consuming music. They’ve never released official figures for how much they made on the album or how much people were willing to pay but it set a foundation for creativity in their releasing procedure. This new step is arguably less groundbreaking – the CD will still drop in May and it could be seen simply as a way of managing the leak.

The Smashing Pumpkins also have history here. Not only did Billy Corgan release the double MachinaIIalbum Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music for free in 2000, but they’ve also embarked on an even more ambitious project than Radiohead for new album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope; each of the 44-songs is released one at a time for free on the band’s site before wrapping them into a deluxe 4-song EP package that can be purchased through Amazon and others.

Where MySpace became a phenomenon in the mid-2000s by allowing new artists a platform through their simple upload & play system the foundation was in song by song streaming rather than maintaining the concept of an album in the digital era. iTunes downloads are outnumbering CD sales. The next step in the role of the web in music distribution? I’ll be speaking with music e603giver-away-er and mashup extraordinaire E-603 (also known by the more standard Ethan Ward – about to release his third album) in a bit to get his take on some of the software that’s changing the game, how to use the web to get music in the hands of as many people, and what it means to give stuff away for free. Oh – also that little nugget of your music is others’ music.

Anything you want me to ask specifically? Feed me in the comments below.

Published by AndyRobb

Andy’s so into web there’s a suspicion he’s actually Peter Parker MK II. Having spent a couple of years at the Microsoft mothership in Seattle you’ll most probably hear him rambling about business opportunity, experiences that ‘pop’ but most probably just something about music.

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