Sunday, September 30, 2007


Is this real?

I'm standing in Gelson's, shopping for dinner, and my BlackBerry starts to go wild. All with the above link. About a new Radiohead record.

Then I get in front of a computer and I read that there's been a hoax. That the site purporting to count down to Radiohead's release is fake. But now everybody is saying the story at the ABOVE link is REAL! That the new Radiohead album comes out in ten days and you can pay whatever you want. It's even on the Record Of The Day site.


I got a call from the AP just last week. Asking me what Radiohead would do. I said they'd use the English indie model. License the record to a major for a limited period of time for a ton of bread. You see majors OWN physical distribution. And that's where the lion's share of recorded music revenue still is, in CDs, at Best Buy/Wal-Mart and the other brick and mortars left. The majors can get the product in the store and you can get paid. They need the billing. You still can't do it alone, even though it's been thirty plus years since the Dead failed with "Wake Of The Flood". Hell, PEARL JAM made a deal with a major.

But what if they're not? What if RADIOHEAD is giving the major labels the middle finger? What if they're saying WE'RE RICH ENOUGH! That the Net allows you to go straight to your audience. FUCK the middleman who says he's so necessary.

R.E.M. went for the cash They could have gone indie. Turns out re-signing with Warner was a good move, for they never sold tonnage again, despite getting PAID for selling tonnage. Springsteen went for the check. As did Neil Young.

But none of the foregoing acts are in their prime. They're riding off into the sunset. They don't have a hold on the younger generation. Boomers in Bimmers are the fans of these acts, none of whom can sell big numbers anyway. They're all on victory lap tours, raking in the dough for retirement. Radiohead doesn't have their dough...shouldn't they be going for the CHECK?

Isn't that the majors' advantage, they've got the money, they can write the CHECK?

Who leaves money on the table. Certainly not the agents. They don't want StubHub to steal a single dollar from their bottom line. Fuck image and credibility, THAT'S MY MONEY! I'm gonna make a deal with Cadillac. I'm gonna whore my product out on TV. Radio won't play my music, I can't get it on the Top Forty, MY HANDS ARE TIED!

It's not like Radiohead's living in a different world. But they're playing by a different rule book. One that says the money flows from the music, that people have to believe in you, that you've got to treat them right.

Shit, you can barely get a ticket to a Radiohead show. The venues aren't big and the demand is incredible. They're doing it all wrong, don't they see??

Well, obviously they don't.

This is big news. This says the major labels are fucked. Untrustworthy with a worthless business model. Radiohead doesn't seem to care if the music is free. Not that they believe it will be. Because believers will give you ALL THEIR MONEY!

This is the industry's worst nightmare. Superstar band, THE superstar band, forging ahead by its own wits. Proving that others can too. And they will.

This is what happens when you sell twenty dollar CDs with one good track and sue your customers for trading P2P. This is what happens when you believe you're ENTITLED to your business. This is what happens when music is a second-class citizen only interested in the bottom line.

There's no testimonial to Jimmy Iovine on No thanks to Rick Rubin, never mind Lyor Cohen. Radiohead doesn't need those stinkin' badges. They're THINKING FOR THEMSELVES!

What did that button say back in the sixties? "Question Authority"? That's what Radiohead is doing here. They're not holding back, saying their hands are tied, but are forging into the future.

You can't make a TV show by yourself. Certainly not a movie. Not that anyone can see. But you can make a record all by your lonesome, it doesn't cost that much. And you can say exactly what you want, you don't need to clean it up for Wal-Mart. And, you can distribute it yourself online. That's what Radiohead is doing.

Will they make a deal with a major for physical distribution? Will they do it themselves? Or will they leave ALL that money on the table? Shit, that would blow MY mind.

(You can pay as little as 1p for the download album, but a 45p credit card charge will be added.)

- Bob Lefsetz