Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Impact Of Radiohead's Latest Album

I read the entertainment section of the Corvallis newspaper last Friday and found this article: Can Radiohead kill the music biz? - Night Rider. The short synopsis of the article was that Radiohead's act of putting their latest album up for grabs for a buyer determined price was "[opening] all of us up to a new lowest common denominator." I believe he's mainly lamenting the long-term prospects of independent record shops because he believes Radiohead's choice to offer official downloads signals the death of the local shops.

Ironically, Night Rider admits he's reviewing a CD he got from a friend who downloaded it for free, and Night Rider says he's not going to stop listening to it because he's a "professional":
I’m not going to stop listening to my burned copy of “In Rainbows.” I’m a professional, and I need to know.

I'm not even sure how to respond to any of this. The guy obviously has put thought into the article, and he believes the recording industry has been "ripping us off for years, promising to lower the cost of CDs for the consumer, but mostly reneging on that promise." Yet his critique of Radiohead's choice completely ignores the idea that independent record stores might be disappearing due (in part, wholy?) to the fact that big-box stores undercut their prices, and that kids (that's where new money is) are no longer coming to record shops. Also, some (using RIAA numbers) show the decline in sales has nothing to do with downloading songs for free. And, in some places, independent shops have seen a rise in sales. Recent studies have also shown that "piracy" boosts CD sales. Also, some artists see boosts in revenue when they give their music away.

I'm also confused as to why Night Rider, as a "professional" in the music industry, refuses to pay Radiohead (or their record label, or anyone) for the album he so enjoys, after all, he says, "I personally believe in paying for my music, and not just the band either."

So, because Radiohead cut out the independent record store, he's going to screw Radiohead out of the money he supposedly believes owes? Without bands (like Radiohead) there is nothing for the local stores to sell! What about another option: paying Radiohead $8 and donating $4 to his favorite local record store? He'd still be supporting both the band and local stores, it's a win-win.

What about the fact that Radiohead probably stands to make more money by releasing it directly than through their label? Bands don't usually make money from their record deals with the current system.

The music industry is obviously a complex beast. And I'm all in favor of supporting the local businesses. However, the industry doesn't exist to support our independent music shops. It's the music industry, and therefore it's about the music (and the people that make it). If the independent shops become obsolete, so be it.

Electricity meant the end of lamp lighter's jobs. The automatic elevator meant the end of elevator operators. Accordions were popular until Fender introduced their amped electric guitar (poor accordion craftsmen had to look for jobs). Digital cameras signal the end of photo shops. Heck, the recording industry probably put a lot of bands out of business because bars could play recorded music as opposed to paying a band.

Advances in technology usually lead to shifts in the way things are done. In this case, the internet allows me to find and listen to any band in the world. And because of new services you can actually find new bands, with almost no cost to the bands. And, as Radiohead's album shows (as well as the label Magnatune (among others)), people are willing to pay for "free" music.

This is good for musicians and music-lovers.

Note: The real losers are the recording industry, who has been screwing musicians for years.

Note: I don't listen to Radiohead and have no opinion on any of their albums.


Mary said...

You could send this to Night Rider... Just a thought.
Rant on, my love.

Tze said...

Yeah, I also wondered why Night-Rider's listening to what practically amounts to an illegal bootleg and at the same time trying to defend the indie record stores.
AND, he never explained what he meant by "lowest common denominator."
He's still including all the traditional incumbent players and shakers in what he calls the music industry, so it's obvious which camp he's on. ;)
Indie record stores don't support artists, they EXPLOIT artists' music for PROFIT. Night-Rider makes them sound like charity organizations!!