I’ve written a couple of times about my disappointment with Radiohead’s online distribution of their latest album (In Rainbows).
Initially, I thought that they were just naive and had blown a great opportunity. But I soon found out they knew exactly what they were doing, and were just as bad as the labels in their treatment of those who prefer to download albums instead of buying CDs.
It’s nice to see at least one artist in the business agrees.
“I think the way [Radiohead] parlayed it into a marketing gimmick has certainly been shrewd, but if you look at what they did, though, it was very much a bait and switch to get you to pay for a MySpace-quality stream as a way to promote a very traditional record sale.”
Bingo! And as the article states:
Reznor is referring to Radiohead’s release of “In Rainbows” as lossy 160kbps (max) MP3 downloads, which many would argue are sub-par when compared to DRM-free offerings from Amazon and iTunes Store (both of which offer 256kbps DRM-free music).
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Reznor continued, “but I don’t see that as a big revolution [that] they’re kinda getting credit for.” In addition to the quality of Radiohead’s MP3s, NIN’s frontman also took issue with the band’s omission of artwork and altogether not taking care of the fans. “To me that feels insincere. It relies upon the fact that it was quote-unquote ‘first,’ and it takes the headlines with it.”
This is exactly what I was saying — right down to the lack of artwork — though Trent sums it up better in hindsight.
Meanwhile, Trent did online distribution right. Look at how he handled distribution of the NIN’s album Ghosts I-IV:
There is no way to pirate this item; faced with the inevitability of listeners stealing it, the entire album has been uploaded to The Piratebay. In addition, the first 9 tracks are available for free to sample before you take the plunge and have been uploaded to Piratebay as well. For those looking to purchase the album, it will run you $5 for a digital download in any format you wish, including FLAC, Apple Lossless, and MP3. Of course you can purchase a CD as well, alongside a deluxe $75 and now sold out $300 limited edition package.
The free Piratebay tracks are better quality than the Radiohead album people paid for. And for just a fiver you get your choice of the best digital download formats available. Yes, a traditional CD is also available (as it should be) as well as deluxe packages, but unlike Radiohead’s offering the online options won’t be going away anytime soon.
You know what makes me feel best about this? In my initial Radiohead article, when I thought they were just being naive, I concluded with this sentence:
So, to the next major band to bypass the labels and sell their album themselves: Please do it better than Radiohead. Much, much better. Are you listening, Trent?
Of course Trent doesn’t read my blog, but clearly he was “listening” nonetheless. Good for you, Trent. And thank you.