Colin Greenwood, bassist of Radiohead, recently wrote a short piece for Index on Censorship, a British organization centered around the freedom of expression. In it he writes about his experience with releasing Radiohead’s last album, which you’ll remember as the first band ever to introduce the pay what you want scheme for their music. It certainly made a lot of headlines, and in their own words, was quite empowering:
Three years later, we have just finished another group of songs, and have begun to wonder about how to release them in a digital landscape that has changed again. It seems to have become harder to own music in the traditional way, on a physical object like a CD, and instead music appears the poor cousin of software, streamed or locked into a portable device like a phone or iPod. I buy hardly any CDs now and get my music from many different sources: Spotify, iTunes, blog playlists, podcasts, online streaming – reviewing this makes me realise that my appetite for music now is just as strong as when I was 13, and how dependent I am upon digital delivery. At the same time, I find a lot of the technology very frustrating and counter-intuitive. I spend a lot of time using music production software, but iTunes feels clunky. I wish it was as simple and elegant as Apple’s hardware. I understand that we have become our own broadcasters and distributors, but I miss the editorialisation of music, the curatorial influences of people like John Peel or a good record label. I liked being on a record label that had us on it, along with Blur, the Beastie Boys and the Beatles.
All that being said, they’re still unsure how the next album will be released:
We have yet to decide how to release our next record, but I hope these partial impressions will help give some idea of the conversations we’ve been having. Traditional marketplaces and media are feeling stale – supermarkets account for around 70 per cent of CDs sold in the UK, the charts are dominated by TV talent-show acts – and we are trying to find ways to put out our music that feel as good as the music itself. The ability to have a say in its release, through the new technologies, is the most empowering thing of all.