Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Karma Police

Many of you have probably heard that Radiohead’s new album came out last night and they distributed it a little differently. First of all, they announced it like a week before. And second, they’re selling it directly from their website (no label backing at all). Even more revolutionary, they’re letting you pay what you feel like paying for it. Their reasoning is nothing more than trying something different and, just like their music, pushing boundaries. It’s really quite genius. An experiment of sorts.

I had a discussion recently about the demise of record labels and this, friends, may be the beginning. The fact that almost anyone with a couple of instruments, a laptop and a couple thousand dollars worth of software and microphones can record an album has changed things. No longer do you need expensive studio time and a label to help you print cd’s, liner notes, packaging, marketing, etc. As this blog no doubt shows, anyone can have a website and can post up music to it and using any number of check-out/delivery devices can distribute it.

And I gotta say, I’m not that sad about it. For years the majors have refused to accept a new business model and in turn made people like me who simply love music fall out of love with them. Why should I support them? They routinely made it harder for me to not only hear new music but to share it and to champion their bands, free of charge of course, to people who might buy it. Incription, ridiculous lawsuits, etc. All that did was make people against them. So now, I don't feel sorry for them. I was on their side. For a while anyway.

Truth is, the cassette tape didn’t kill music. The cd burner didn’t kill music. The internet hasn’t killed music. Record labels simply killed themselves.

Because they loved money more than music.

The only thing that will continue to be cost-prohibitive for artists is touring. Stages, lighting, roadies, catering, amps, venue fees, transportation, buses, trucks, merchandise, drugs, alcohol, etc., will still need to be financed by someone and if recent trends continue that will continue to be a source of income for years to come. Moreso than record sales. So that’s something. But probably not enough to save the majors.

I think moving forward, the most important thing in the music business will be tastemakers—the people who can be trusted to sort it out and tell us what’s good or what’s deserving of a listen and not just a guy and his friends in Encino who hammered out an EP of songs. Perhaps people like me, even. Whoever. Friend to friend. Word of mouth. It doesn’t matter.

I suppose it will be kind of like what radio used to do before they just started repeatedly telling us every five minutes that “no one plays more hits than [insert station name here].” Yeah? Well stop saying you do and do it. They’re next to go if they don’t take a page from the KGSR’s, KBCO’s and Indie 103’s of the world and start playing music that matters and building musical communities.

To quote Jeff Tweedy:

“And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight

Because there’s a light (what light)
Inside of you.”

This high horse is really starting to chafe me so I’m gonna go ahead and get down now.

And for the record, I paid £6.45 for the album, roughly $13.12 US. After hearing it, I think I should have paid twice that. It's that good. Yowzers.


Blogger mccovert said...

sounds like you're a fan of the new album. You gonna give it a review for your readers?

1:35 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

Yeah dude, it's dope. Expect some notes on it soon.

2:22 PM  
Blogger minus five said...

thanks for the heads up on the album. i'll be downloading it as well.

3:44 PM  
Blogger a/ok said...


must. get. album.

3:03 PM  

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