Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Megan writes about Radiohead

My head explodes.
Film at 11.

To begin,
Fire Tyler Cowan.
Radiohead are not indie. Whatever the hell you want to call indie, RH are not it. You are clearly 38, Ms. McArdle, and aging rapidly, if you can quote this approvingly. I'm going to start calling you a spinster when you hit 40. (Also, RH are notably not on iTunes, because they are anti-DRM. Tyler really doesn't know what he's talking about. No wonder Megan cites him.)
The thing is, neither Megan nor Tyler seem to have any idea of the actual context this arose out of. I am, as noted, an obsessive RH fan, going back to the tender age of 15 when Creep broke. I don't know their personal lives, because I retain a hint of sanity, but I know their professional careers very well. So, let's begin with what Megan and Tyler are leaving out. First, there's a mass commercial release of a physical disc planned in some form for early 08. But, more importantly, this move was driven by what amount to artistic concerns just as much, if not more, than economic. RH don't need money, they could do it all for free from here on out and be fine. Despite Tyler's implicit claim they need to grow their brand, Radiohead are arguably the biggest band in the world, aside from dinosaurs like the Rolling Stones and U2. Everyone knows them, they don't need exposure, and they're not greedy. There's a reason you don't hear Radiohead tunes in car ads.
And, tho Megan and Tyler don't know it, RH has had a problem with their albums leaking to the public before the band considers them ready. Demo versions of all the tracks on their last album leaked several months before the album came out, and their albums going back to Kid A have been online before they were available commercially. Thom's solo album last summer leaked a month early, in a version that was missing the first few seconds of each track. I would wager that the main impetus behind this move is quality control over their product. Instead of a leak based on a studio employee sneaking out demos, or a journalist putting bad mp3s of their promo copy on limewire, the band is essentially leaking the album themselves, in a format they control. This isn't, despite Megan's claims, unprecedented. After Kid A leaked the band put the whole album online in a streaming format, and the album was still a massive seller. Basically, the band is making sure that everyone hears a quality copy of their work, instead of a third-hand mp3 rip of an unmastered demo.
As for Megan thinking us obsessives are buying the expensive discbox version to try and prove our dedication.... oy. That's just a bizarre idea. You think the band is going over the list of the names of the tens to hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide to see whether folk they know are showing their dedication? Or that fans are going to carry around a big box to show off their dedication?
We're ordering the discbox because we're Radiohead obsessives. It contains a bonus second disc with 8 songs that won't be available for download or on the later commercial release, along with heavy duty vinyl versions of both discs, and artwork and other goodies. Also, this money actually goes to RH, instead of a label. For some of us, that's a big plus. But it boils down to something quite simple; we're buying the discbox because we want it. It's so simple even Megan can understand, and she still fucks it up.
Anyway Stereogum has a nice, brief, accurate write up of the actual facts here, which are interesting in ways Megan totally misses. It's almost as if her lack of research into things is having a negative impact on her work. She's wrong about a lot of things, but the economics of going publicity-free and making the labels come to them are genuinely fascinating, and could have a real impact on the business models the music industry functions under. But Megan is worried about our indie credentials, bless her heart.

N yeah, I know this is petty even for me, but too bad.

I forgot to mention that she can't even get the most basic of details right. If you choose to pay nothing for the download, there are no transaction fees.


Anonymous said...

Come on people get real, here is a poll for the greatest indie singers, bands of all time, etc.: http://www.xfm.co.uk/article.asp?id=101017 Do I have to tell you which group does very very well?

Fishbone McGonigle said...

Radiohead are arguably the biggest band in the world

I think you might be overstating it just a bit . . . but that's okay, since I know how it is to be a fanboy obsessive, and because it doesn't effect the overall truth of your point.

brad said...

Well, there's a reason I said in the world. They're bigger in Europe and South America than they are here.
anon- Your poll was written by a moron. Michael Stipe is listed as an indie singer.
R.E.M. were the first real band I listened to, when a babysitter played Document for me when I was 10. This was before they even came up with alternative. Indie is post-pavement, and not even the right buzzword anymore.

Fishbone McGonigle said...

Well, there's a reason I said in the world. They're bigger in Europe and South America than they are here.

Okay, in that case, I yield to your judgment. Also, you did specifically exclude dinosaur bands, so I guess you have all your bases covered.

M. Bouffant said...

When R. E. M. first came out we creeps in what was left of L. A. Punk referred to them as a "college radio" band, w/ a sneer that could (and often did) render a hair-farmer bald in one swoop. Or "jangly guitar rock."