Radiohead Shines On

It’s about a month since Radiohead released In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-please download. Recently, much has been made of the statistic that 62% of those who downloaded the album chose not to pay for it. For example, Daniel Langendorf quoted Fred Wilson‘s remark: “I am surprised by the number of freeloaders.”

USBearAs an aside at the end of the same post, Daniel remarks that Radiohead will be working with EMI to release its back catalog on USB. Actually, the 7 albums are available in 3 formats: USB, download, and even, for the nostalgic, CD.

Since I never got round to buying Radiohead before In Rainbows, I’ve added the back catalog to one of my wish lists. I doubt that I am alone in this.

So one effect of the In Rainbows download will be to promote the back catalog. Another will be to promote the In Rainbows CD. Yet another will be to promote the international tour starting next spring.

As you can see, I don’t buy the implication that free downloads of In Rainbows represent forgone revenue for Radiohead. First, they serve as promo giveaways for other stuff. Second, they represent many people who wouldn’t have paid money for the music, either because they don’t pay money for any music, or because they wanted to try before buying, or they weren’t big enough fans of the band.

As Glyn Moody remarks, Radiohead really get the hang of this new music stuff.

Mixed Feelings About Mixaloo

I remember the days of analog music: vinyl records and mix tapes. But my music these days is digital, using services like Rhapsody and…

It seems as though a digital counterpart to the mix tape would be a good thing. That’s what Mixaloo sets out to provide. Here’s how TechCrunch described Mixaloo a few weeks ago.

As a Mixaloo user, you can create playlists of music from all the major record labels… You can then share these playlists with friends via email, or you can embed playlist widgets into your website, blog, personalized homepage, or social networking profile…

To make a mix is free, but your friends will need to pay for the whole mix if they want to hear more than 30-second preview clips. The songs are 99 cents each (good) and protected by Windows Media DRM (very bad).

I didn’t realize the very bad part when I signed up for an invite to the private beta. But I did sign up, and I did mix. So there’s a mix of music I miss from my vinyl years over at my WordPress test blog. (I can’t put it here due to WordPress.com restrictions.)

I’m left thinking that the digital mix tape metaphor is appealing, but what it really means is playlist, and there are multiple ways of generating a playlist that I like better than I like Mixaloo’s. I’m thinking mainly of Sonific and Seeqpod. But I’m not writing off Mixaloo, since it’s still in private beta.

My thanks to Mashable, provider of my invite to the beta. (By the way, I have some Mixaloo invites of my own to give away; let me know via comment or email if you want one.) My thanks also to Anita for the rather lovely photo.

Jill Sobule’s Feedless Blog

in an earlier post about Jill Sobule, I noted that I couldn’t find her blog at Yahoo music. That was probably due to its lack of existence. Well, now I can find the blog.

But I can’t find its feed. More to the point, neither can Firefox or Google Reader. Maybe Yahoo should buy Automattic, or at least buy a clue about hosting blogs.

Terrifyingly Inspirational 80s Songs

Every decade brings it own terror in terms of music, hair, etc., At Cracked you can find a list of ten terrifyingly inspirational 80s songs, with commentary far better than the music deserves. Here’s a sample.

There are two kinds of people in this world: People who love Journey ironically and people who love Journey genuinely… “Don’t Stop Believing” is in many ways the ultimate Journey song, packed to the gills with the staples of ’80s rock.

Hype Machine and Seeqpod

The new Hype Machine aroused much… hype, you might call it. Fred Wilson was enthusiastic. Marshall Kirkpatrick was positively giddy: “beautifully redesigned… social networking component is very nicely put together… very handy Twitter integration… a widely loved service.”

My reaction is rather more mixed. I should start by saying that I value what I see as Hype Machine’s basic service: it helps me find music that people have posted to their blogs. I like the favorites feature: here are my favorites @HM. On the other hand, I am among those who regret the loss of the playlist feature.

The lack of playlists sent me scuttling over to my account at Seeqpod, where there be playlists. I just created one: CoverBurb, which starts with Thom Yorke announcing “the sexiest song ever written” and then Radiohead doing an amazing version of… Hey, go and listen for yourself, then enjoy the duet between Billy Bragg and Jill Sobule.

Seeqpod is very much in beta, so I won’t grumble about its awkward aspects. I will say that it’s not (yet?) as good at finding music as Hype Machine. For example, when I try to find Yo La Tengo backing Daniel Johnson on his song “Speeding Motorcycle,” I get Daniel doing it solo (which is great, but not quite what I was looking for).

Hey, wouldn’t it be good if it was possible to mash the two services together? Seeqpod has an API. Unfortunately, HM doesn’t. Or, if it does, it evaded my attempts to find it. (I have an email in to HM to check this, and will pass on the reply if it say anything other than “No, we don’t provide an API.”)

More on Major Music Labels

The world’s most powerful music executive aims to join forces with other record companies to launch an industry-owned subscription service, according to Business Week. Said exec is Doug Morris of Universal. Doug thinks that the music labels have given Apple too sweet a deal. “We got rolled like a bunch of puppies” is his description of the negotiations.

The new service will be called Total Music, and will be funded by a tax on TM-compatible music players. Gizmodo identifies one downside: “this is clearly not a move away from DRM, but towards more of it. You can bet those downloads are going to be wrapped thicker than a 5-year-old’s Christmas present.”

TechCrunch identifies another problem: it’ll make the music players too expensive. “Total Music may market itself as offering free unlimited music, but it’s not really free, the cost is just hidden. That cost: $90 per device.”

Total Music already looks to me… how to put this… as dead as DRM? In as much trouble as a major music label?

Talking of major labels, it seems that one of the big four will release In Rainbows early next year. Gizmodo described this as a cop-out. Indeed, if you follow the link, you’ll see far harsher terms. You’ll also see a more recent acknowledgment that the CD release was intended all along, and shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’m neither surprised at the news nor annoyed that I paid for the download.

I’m tempted to describe Radiohead’s impending bargain with a major as Faustian, but I think they’ll get a far better deal than that would imply. But here’s “Faust Arp,” one of my favorite tracks from In Rainbows.

Music, Money, and (Business) Models

Steve O’Hear at last100 provides a useful account of five alternative models for selling music:

  • Free.
  • Pay what you want, with Radiohead of course being the most prominent current example.
  • Pay by popularity, e.g., Amie Street.
  • Subscription. This, and in particular Rhapsody, is how I get most of my music these days.
  • A music tax. There are multiple strong arguments against this. For example, “if a file-sharing tax makes up the majority of the music industry’s revenue, it’s hard to see what incentive there would be for the major record labels, with their huge back-catalogs, to continue to invest in new artists.”

So what are the record labels actually doing?

Instead of recognizing that the record industry’s aging business model… is a broken one and in desperate need of a fix, the response has largely been litigation coupled with the introduction of technology, in the form of DRM, designed to enforce copy protection, which, ultimately, just inconveniences paying customers.

I look forward to seeing posts at last100 and elsewhere about the portable music players that will compete during the coming holiday season. The death of DRM will make this playing field more level, and the prices lower.

Radiohead: In Rainbows

ThomMy first two attempts to give Radiohead money for In Rainbows failed. But third time was lucky, or the site’s problems were fixed, and there were no problems with payment last night. Neither were there problems with download this morning.

So I’m among the millions of people currently listening to In Rainbows, and among the (thousands?) currently writing about it. The Guardian has a predictably large amount of coverage. For example, Paul Morely reviews it, pointing out with tiresome frequency that it’s too soon to do so.

The image is from a 15 years of Radiohead photo feature. It bears a pleasingly snide caption.

The Observer listed the Bends… as one of the 50 albums that changed music: ‘In parallel with Jeff Buckley, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke popularised the angst-laden falsetto… Without this Coldplay would not exist, nor Keane, nor James Blunt.’ Talk about a backhanded compliment.

I’m enjoying my first listen to the album, thanks very much. I paid 3.14 (+ .49) UK. I’m afraid to check how much that it is US$ these days.

The day the music industry died

The title of this post is the same as that of an article by Robert Sandall in The Sunday Times (no, not the one in NYC). Although, as a reader comments, it’s old news, Radiohead has freshened it up a little.

The article is rather quotable. Here goes:

  • Currently out of contract and thus entitled to dispose of their recordings as they see fit, one of the most popular bands in the world had decided to let the fans decide how much their latest album was worth.
  • Records, CDs or downloads now have all become downgraded to the status of promotional tools.
  • A revealing story doing the rounds in America tells of a young rock band who decided to stop selling their CDs at gigs after they discovered that by offering their CDs for $10 they were cannibalising sales of their $20 T-shirts.
  • This upending of the music business was neatly predicted back in the 1990s by the guitarist of the American hardcore band Anthrax who described their new album as “the menu; our concert is the meal”.
  • Radiohead… have mixed feelings about live work… “They probably will be playing some dates next year,” a spokesman said last week. “But Thom Yorke doesn’t like touring much.”

Sony Seems Set to Sue Us All

The Ars Technica comedy column continues to report the stand-up of Jennifer Pariser. She has an excellent straight man in Richard Gabriel.

Pariser has a very broad definition of “stealing.” When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she said.

I’m sure that further gems will follow, and that Mashable (among other sites) will bring them to our attention.