In Rainbows

Was the turning point. Most of the focus has been on its name your own price formula, but most important, it was released without a major label and as a result of being available for free, Radiohead achieved its number one goal, getting the music in as many hands as possible. That’s now the paradigm, doing whatever it takes to get people to hear your music, not to get them to pay for it. Hearing is more important than hype. Notice the absent of hype on the original "In Rainbows" site, it was all about the music and the music only, the music stood for itself. Doesn’t matter how many people paid, Radiohead is playing the buildings it wants to and doing phenomenal business. That’s the goal of a band, to execute on its own terms, not be noticed by people who don’t want to partake/believe.

It started with Pearl Jam. The first band made by MTV to turn its back on television. Pearl Jam was fearful of losing control, being defined by the medium instead of itself. It took back control. The medium looked elsewhere, but Pearl Jam can still play arenas, whereas everybody else who whored himself out for exposure can barely work, if they can work at all. How many tickets could Limp Bizkit sell today?

It’s not about theft of music, even though the establishment of Napster was a turning point in music history. It’s about the artist taking back control. Fans buy into an artist, not a label. Why should they pay the label an exorbitant fee for music that the act will see almost nothing of?

Forget the rationalizations for theft, but don’t you find it interesting that all these years later, with many of these artists dead, the label is still making money off the records and the acts and their heirs are not? Isn’t it weird that those acts who’ve recouped under labyrinthian formulas don’t own the copyrights to their own songs? Are relegated to recutting them for commercials as opposed to using the original, so they can make a bit of bread?

Sure Radiohead was built by the system, as was Pearl Jam. But, newbies who want some of what they got can’t seem to understand that that paradigm is dead. That you can’t execute that old formula anymore. One of mass exposure generating multiple impressions. People are not watching and feel beaten over the head if they are, and end up abandoning the overhyped act, if not hating it outright.

Look at R.E.M. Beneficiary of one of the richest deals in the business. They put their heart and soul into their new album, worked it relentlessly, but it still didn’t sell. We could debate the record’s merits ad infinitum, but no matter what the songs sound like, there’s a limited audience. The more interesting issue is do they re-sign with Warner Brothers? They’re certainly not going to get a rich deal. Do they go independent? They’ll certainly make much more for their music. As for their label penalizing them for going independent, it won’t be long before physical retail is essentially dead, with everything equal on iTunes, on the Net, to what degree can Warner Brothers penalize R.E.M? The label is not going to restrict their product from the Web, there’s not an issue of selling product to retailers where they’ve got more of an upside.

So all the old acts are going to go independent. Because it doesn’t make any sense to make a deal with the major. The major can’t offer enough money and exerts too much control.

Only newbies will want to sign with the major, but the aforementioned restrictions, on everything from what to record and when to release it to how to look make anyone with pretensions of artistry chafe.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, Live Nation wants to roll up the superstars. Give the advances the labels used to. Not a bad deal for an act looking for guaranteed income. Although a lot is given up in the process, certain control over ticketing…

Live Nation doesn’t want the newbies. Will the newbies be rolled up by an entrepreneur? One Web-savvy as opposed to bricks and mortar-savvy?

"In Rainbows" was the turning point. It was the moment when an act that counted, not a has-been, decided to enter the future, to throw off the reins of the corporate behemoth and invest in its own career, accepting both the losses and the rewards.

I’m not telling you to give your music away for free. But I am telling you it’s free anyway. So, rather than fight this battle, figure out a better way to sell it and innovative revenue streams. Maybe the music comes with a physical product, like a t-shirt. Or a code for a guaranteed seat. Don’t throw your money at charlatans without your best interests at heart, sit down and have a conference amongst your team. How can you best develop, how can you best proceed on your lonesome. Are you willing to risk for reward?

That’s the game.

And if you’re not getting the reward, you’re not entitled to complain. All that means is you’re not marketing well enough, or your music isn’t good enough. Either you haven’t reached the target audience, or those people don’t like it. The key is getting them to taste and accepting the results. You must get down in the pit with your public, not try to find fat cat investors to inject some cash so you can live for a year in exchange for almost all your rights.

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  1. Pingback by Links for 21-07-2008 | Velcro City Tourist Board | 2008/07/20 at 19:17:12

    […] ic and art.” (tags: magic television films books comics interview Alan-Moore) 2 – In Rainbows “Most of the focus has been on its […]

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  1. Pingback by Links for 21-07-2008 | Velcro City Tourist Board | 2008/07/20 at 19:17:12

    […] ic and art.” (tags: magic television films books comics interview Alan-Moore) 2 – In Rainbows “Most of the focus has been on its […]

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