I've had a fondness for the musical group Radiohead for many years now. A kind of dark, complex, introspective, idiosyncratic pop. I hadn't been thinking too much about them, lately, though as always they're on my regular play list among the mp3's. However, recently I read about them in, of all places, a business website.
Recently they've produced a new album. However, rather than release it through a standard record company distribution deal, they've simply posted the mp3 tracks to their website and allow people to download it, for a price that the individual user is allowed to set - any price at all.
Of course, this alternately alarms or exhilarates all kinds of economic commentators. It's so... chaotic, democratic, "new economy." They ask, is this the future of IP (intellectual property) distro? Just a fluke?
I would be one of those people who would be fascinated and excited to think this is some vision of the future of intellectual property - but I'm actually inclined to believe this is, more likely, a fluke - at least for the short and medium terms. Radiohead (and Thom Yorke, their leader) have always been very savvy with respect to both technology/internet stuff as well as the issue of marketing/merchandising/publicity. This is very much in that vein.
Nevertheless, I confess I did exactly what so many are apparently doing. I went to their website, gave them some money, and downloaded the album. I could hardly resist, just to say I'd been a part of it. And, I've learned, I paid quite a bit more than most did - but then, I was always a sucker for "pay what you think it's worth" pitches - same as I always tip too much at restaurants, right? I paid exactly what I thought I'd pay if I'd gone down and bought a new Radiohead at the big store - say, around 13-15 bucks. Yorke and friends are, in fact, getting an average of about 8 bucks per album download, and everyone's remarking that, even so, they're getting more cash in the bank than if they'd gone through a standard CD distro deal, since there're no middlemen whatsoever.
Ah well. Hey, it's a pretty good album - as Radiohead goes.
Still, I still think my favorite is probably Hail to the Thief - I bought that CD at a Target store in suburban Sydney, Australia, when I'd realized I'd just set out to drive 2000 km to far north Queensland and had absolutely nothing to listen to except Australian radio - which makes US radio sound pretty damn good. Consequently, I had this CD on constant repeat for the whole drive north up the coast, and I associate its songs with vivid blurs of endless streams of Ozzian countryside, broken up by repetitive snippets of eerily tiny Target stores, cheap motels, Hungry-Jack restaurants (=Burger King, in Oz) along those two lane roads, and the sleepy moments late at night, driving, when I would start to forget which side of the road I was supposed to be on.
In particular, one of my favorite songs of all time: "There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)."
What I'm listening to right now.