Industry Rule Number Four Thousand and Eighty...
A few weeks ago I heard that Radiohead was set to release an internet only album that would cost the listener whatever they decided they wanted to pay for it. Twenty dollars or zero dollars, you could pay whatever amount you felt the album was worth. Now I know a lot of hip hop heads may not be into Radiohead and that's fine, but the thing that got my attention (besides how amazing the album was), was how one of the most popular and critically acclaimed bands in the world could potentially revolutionize the music industry in this single act.
To explain, by releasing the album on the internet, without a set price, Radiohead had completely cut the record label out of what is the standard music industry equation. For artists, this means that they keep 100% of the profits rather than the 30 or less percent that they're typically dealt. In this digital age, distribution, sales, and promotion don't quite mean the what they did when you used to have to go Tower to get the latest release which you heard about through the radio, newspaper, or TV. Of course, only artists with already high profiles could pull this off so succesfully, but since Radiohead's release of In Rainbows, Nine Inch Nails, Oasis, and Jamiroquai may also soon dispense with the label and distribute their upcoming albums through the internet.
In a big middle finger to the industry he hates so much, Prince recently released his album Planet Earth for free in the UK, and still made a profit. Radiohead singer Thom Yorke commented, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model."
What I'm wondering is, with hip hop's general disdain for the industry and labels, who will be the first major hip hop artist to release a full album online and could this really be the future of music? More interestingly, without the influence of record execs, can this be an opportunity for artists to really take control of the music AND the culture, and get hip hop away from some of the more violent, materialistic, and degrading content that is such a part of the hip hop top 20? I think Tribe put it best way back when:
Industry rule number four thousand and eighty,
record company people are shady.
So kids watch your back 'cause I think they smoke crack,
I don't doubt it. Look at how they act.
Off to better things like a hip-hop forum.
Pass me the rock and I'll storm with the crew and ... Proper.
What you say Hammer? Proper.
Rap is not pop, if you call it that then stop.
Rap Coalition :: The Political Economy of Black Music
The Sydney Morning Herald :: Radiohead Cashes in by Letting Fans Pay Much Less
The Telegraph :: Oasis, Jamiroquai to Follow Radiohead
Davey D :: The Music Biz ... Are Industry People Shady?
TIME :: Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want
PC World :: Big Acts Follow Radiohead's Lead: Let Their Music Go Free
Still waiting for the day artists take down Ticketmaster and Clear Channel...