No More Rainbows: Radiohead Won’t Repeat Online Stunt
So much for riding at the vanguard of a new wave of music distribution, as Radiohead declares its In Rainbows online experiment a one-time deal.
Name your own price may have been as low as zero for a lot of people who eagerly took advantage of the Radiohead promotion for its In Rainbows album. Whatever deal the fans received, they ought to treasure it, as frontman Thom Yorke said it won’t happen again.
Yorke suggested in Hollywood Reporter the event happened under unique conditions:
“I think it was a one-off response to a particular situation,” Yorke said of the band’s downloading policy for the album “In Rainbows.”
“It was one of those things where we were in the position of everyone asking us what we were going to do,” he said. “I don’t think it would have the same significance now anyway, if we chose to give something away again. It was a moment in time.”
Other acts like Nine Inch Nails, Prince, Portishead, and Coldplay made efforts to get music into the hands of their fans for free. One must believe this led to positive outcomes; Prince, for example, had to add several London shows to the original slate when demand exploded after he distributed a CD with a newspaper.
Free music isn’t the kiss of death for a band. The Grateful Dead and Phish generously permitted bootlegging of their shows by fans for years, enhancing their reputations in a world where corporate radio simply didn’t play jam bands on the air.
Yorke hit the main point in his comments, noting that Radiohead can enjoy a direct relationship with fans now. In truth, any band with a few minutes to get on MySpace or Facebook or Bebo can do that too.
The real point of that relationship involves both the band and the fans. No one expects Yorke to be online at odd hours answering questions in a forum; he needs to be in a studio. But whatever personal time musicians put into the fan relationships, safely behind a chat window and webcam, should yield a solid public relations gain for the band.