Much of the buzz on the webernets today is centred on British super band, Radiohead. Today they have officially launched their new album In Rainbows. Sure we see bands release albums every week, but this one is very different.
Just in case you have been too busy following unimportant stories like the two provincial elections allow me to bring you up to speed. Radiohead, currently working without a record label, announced only a week and a half ago that they were going to be making their album available for download on their site, www.inrainbows.com. Now here is the real revolutionary part...they are letting people decide how much to pay for it. Radiohead is also offering a deluxe box set for sale (at a set price) for the real die-hard fans looking to get more out of their listening experience.
This of course, is a huge blow to the record industry which has been reeling ever since the dawn of Napster back in 1999. The record labels have been fighting very hard against the spread of digital music, even having issues with the iTunes Music Store, one of the few financial success of the digital music age.
Since Radiohead made their announcement, there seem to be a few other big names jumping on this bandwagon. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, now a free agent, has been making some hawkish noises against the record industry, so it would be no shock if he follows Radiohead's lead on this one.
As if the biggest alternative and industrial band's defections were not enough, there are rumours that both Oasis and Jamiroquoi could be following suit. Leaving record labels without four major acts who decide to take their music directly to the people without the dreaded "Middle Man" taking a share of the profit along the way.
It certainly is refreshing that these acts understand the vital paradigm shift that has occurred over the past eight years. In the radio/video star age the single would always serve as sort of a commercial for the album. If people liked a single enough they would hopefully buy the album, and all was good. But now, if people like a single they will download it, and if they really like it they will just download the album, leaving people's pockets empty. What Radiohead and co. seem to get is that while the single is a great advertisement for the album, the album is now a great advertisement for the artists brand.
Even if Radiohead did not put their album up for "sale" today it still would have gotten out and people would have downloaded it for free. Sure it would have been illegal, but thanks to the anonymity of the internet, that is not much of an issue. While the album could have been downloaded, there is no way that a special deluxe boxed set could be downloaded, and you know what, people are buying it. You know what else can't be downloaded? T-shirts, concert tickets, DVD extras, and much, much more. This my friends, is the future of the music industry. No matter how good the clip on YouTube is, it does not compare to the reverberation you feel in your chest as a band starts playing your favourite song live.
Back in sixties and seventies, when Rock and Roll was in its infancy, people were convinced that it would free people's minds and change the world. Fast forward to the nineties and zero-zeros and that same sense of optimism surrounds the internet. While both Rock and Web have yet to bring about major change in the social order, they can at least be content to have changed one another, permanently and irrevocably. And I dare say, that's a pretty big accomplishment.
Until next time,