Radiohead Tip Jar

This is not a model for the future. This is a stunt by the most credible major band on the planet. As much marketing as revenue generator. Radiohead’s image has been burnished for decades to come, people won’t forget this giveback to their fans, this middle finger to the man. But this pay what you want model isn’t going to save the recorded music business.

Is anybody interested in saving the recorded music business?

Certainly not Edgar Bronfman, Jr. He keeps testifying how he needs a 360 degree model to survive, that you can’t make money off of recordings. Even though the company he purchased at a fire sale price did just that for decades. Did I miss a memo? Is recorded music suddenly WORTHLESS?

Then we’ve got Jimmy Iovine, branching out into movies and Vegas. If I were Vivendi I’d change his deal, make him a consultant. There are only twenty four hours in a day. Is Jimmy working for THEM or is he working for HIMSELF?

And Clive’s answer? He just continues to spread the myth that he’s God. That he’s so powerful he can make ANYTHING a hit, as long as his charges listen to him, since he knows much more about music than they ever will.

Hell, maybe Clive knows more about the music BUSINESS, but is the mainstream business the same one he’s been functioning in for four decades? Or are we seeing a change as dramatic as that which he says began with Monterey Pop?

The acts changed, but CBS still sold recorded music. Clive didn’t tell Janis Joplin her music should be free. Where’s his business wisdom now?

Not that we should be looking for septuagenarians for answers…

But the Google guys… We won’t let them in our business. Certainly not after the Apple debacle.

Oh, you know that Cupertino company. The one that RUINED THE BUSINESS! Yes, everybody wanted CDs and they developed this iPod contraption and now everybody wants files. Is this really Apple’s fault? Or did they just seize an opportunity? More to the point, have the majors constantly SQUANDERED opportunities?

Is the Internet the end, or the beginning?

Is it really true that no one can get paid online? Or do we just need a better business model?

Do bands have to survive on tours? What about composers, non-touring artists…are they FUCKED?

The majors would say so.

But I want to see how they’re perceived after this file-trading trial debacle. DID NO ONE AT THE RIAA READ NAOMI KLEIN’S "NO LOGO"? Major labels must avoid trials at all costs. Because it’s not about the truth, whether someone pilfered music or not, it becomes a referendum on their practices, on their BUSINESS MODEL!

You get an inane attorney claiming ripping your own CDs is theft. God, that one made the rounds online in minutes.

Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: "Copying" music you own is "stealing"

What other ignorance and dirty laundry is gonna come out. The fact that labels make the lion’s share of the money?

The public is no longer unsophisticated. One reason fans are paying Radiohead is because the money is going directly to the band. If they buy the major label product, they believe the money goes to the man, who is SUING THEM!

The fan has no interest in the label’s business model. The fan is just that, SOMEONE DEDICATED TO A BAND’S MUSIC!

How do you get someone dedicated?

Is it about making a big noise? Then that guy who asked us all to save Britney on YouTube would be rolling in dough. Everybody on TV playing music would be rich. But that eighties model is dead. Exposure isn’t everything, the kind of exposure is KEY!

How do you get your fans to trust you?

That’s what all the bands are learning from the Radiohead model. If you’re cool, people will give you ALL their money. But what does this do for labels? What does this do for BREAKING ARTISTS?

All we get from the labels is a big shrug.

People know Radiohead. How do we get them to take a chance on someone new, and PAY FOR THIS CHANCE? In a non-voluntary way. In a compulsory way. You want music, you’ve got to pay for it. Oh, maybe you can get it from your friends, but that’s INCONVENIENT! How can we sell music CONVENIENTLY?

Tower Records died because it was easier to get it online. Not better, MP3s don’t sound too good. But you can get them without leaving the house. How can we appeal to the customer’s desires? Trying to convince them to overpay for crap is a nonstarter.

I could offer up some solutions, but the majors aren’t listening. They’ve got the clout, and they’re making music free.

Some kid, of the type who STARTED Google, is gonna figure out how to get his new band, which won’t get MTV or Top Forty radio airplay, paid. This band will have direct communication with its fans via the Net. Maybe they’ll have to give the music away for free now, but this won’t be forever. They’ll come up with a business proposition that is appealing. And the majors will be left out. They won’t license their catalogs, so young ‘uns will stop trying. And the acts they sign will be BETTER than what the majors purvey.

So this Radiohead Net model? It’s less about a new way to get paid for music than a statement that the old model is dead. If tip jars were the future, we’d all be buying shareware instead of Microsoft Office.

There’s a crisis. There’s a riot going on. Music peaked when it was ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT! How come Radiohead got the message and no one who runs a major label did? How come it used to be impossible to get a GIG at a record store, where it was happening, and now the stores that still exist are peopled by automatons, buffoons out of a Judd Apatow movie? How come everything we believed in is now shit?

We can blame high concert ticket prices on Robert Sillerman. But who are we blaming the Net crisis on? No outside force. Just the usual suspects, running the major labels into the ground.

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  1. […] of economists seem to think that what Radiohead is doing is analogous to working for tips; Bob Lefsetz thinks so too. Folks, let me ask you something: When yo […]

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  1. […] of economists seem to think that what Radiohead is doing is analogous to working for tips; Bob Lefsetz thinks so too. Folks, let me ask you something: When yo […]

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