By now you have probably heard the big news that Radiohead will be selling their new album through their Web site, and you will be able to set your own price. Yes that’s right. Shivers from the record industry are reverberating so strongly right now I expect an earthquake to register on the Technorati scale at any moment.
I agree that this is a beautiful thing, but I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a second, only because I’m trying to process this new concept. Isn’t it the initial strength of the record industry’s marketing that elevated Radiohead to the position that enables them to do this? Would “Creep” ever have ended up on MTV if they were just an obscure Internet band? It’s clear that unless a band sells 750,000 units, they are a loss to a major label record company (and a bummer because they have to pay the label back for all the money they fronted for their coke expenditures), so major labels have to do the one thing that indies cannot: exposure. And for a band like Radiohead, it has been on a global scale.
I know, I know the long tail changes this dynamic and bands will organically become famous, but bands do benefit from the marketing muscle that labels have. Personally the trade off isn’t worth it (that is, selling your soul to corporate record companies), but I just wanted to state the situation is not black and white. I don’t know if the swarm will find the next Radiohead, but I hope it does.
There are people more informed and smarter than me already commenting on this, so I suggest you click through the following link to get a more contextual understanding. Meanwhile, gods in the machine do exist!
With Trent Reznor also recently announcing that once Nine Inch Nails fulfill their Universal commitments, they will be selling their albums direct to fans from their websites, this signifies a sea-change in distribution methods by A-list artists. Of course this is not an option for every band, but if all the superstar-bands that actually benefited from the old system to get to where they are, are now subsequently deciding to go totally “indie” where are the major labels going to find the mega-revenues that used to subsidize the rest of the money-losing acts in their stable?