The music industry in freefall. Or: The lesser-noted point about Radiohead

One thing that should be noted which seems to have been missed in all the excitement about Radiohead’s pay-what-you-will experiment, is that the band hasn’t eschewed the music industry altogether. In contrast, it’s partnered with labels XL and TBD for the physical release of In Rainbows.

But looks like the amicable break-up with EMI hasn’t lasted, and the vitriolic sparks are beginning to fly.

A recent article in the Times of London catalogued complaints from EMI and new boss Guy Hands, head of private equity firm Terra Firma, regarding Radiohead’s demands for “an extraordinary amount of money” before releasing another album. Yorke and co were greedy, unreasonable and irresponsible, the story went.

Well, in the new era of open response, Yorke and co promptly took issue and the singer has used the band blog as a way to respond: “we did not ask for a load of cash from our old record label EMI to re- sign. that is a L I E. The Times in the UK should check its facts before it prints such dirt,” he writes. “whAT we WANTED WAS some control over OUR WOrK and how it was used in the future by them-that seemed REASONAblE to us, as we cared about it a great deal. Mr Hands was not interested. So neither were we.”

Here’s the kicker: “we took no ‘BRead-HEAd’ advances at all from both independent labels XL and TBD for our new record… AND we are really excited to be working with them. SHock! AT least they do not behave like confused bulls in a china shop.”

Confused bulls in a china shop. Ouch. That’s got to hurt. The problem for the music business is that this is clearly just a high-profile beginning of a whole new era. The industry needs a far-reaching business model revolution… and fast.

PS This was all prompted by a weekend spent catching up on Radiohead’s New Year’s Eve album/video presentation of In Rainbows, which enhances the band’s attitude perfectly. Simple visual design, no fuss, no frills, the lean, pared-down, ultra-focused visual approach is a great antidote to the bloat. And a continued evolution from a band which has traditionally invested a lot of time, effort and money in its video presentations (just one example is the still-extraordinary Street Spirit, shot by Jonathan Glazer, who went on to direct films such as Sexy Beast — I embedded the file after the jump and it’s WELL worth a look if you’ve never seen it before.)

Here's Street Spirit:

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