First, the answer: So good you’ll pay for it even when it’s free.
And now, the question: How good can a Radiohead album be?
A decade ago, the music industry was in turmoil. Or at least the artists, executives and their attorneys wanted you to believe it was. The Recording Industry Association of America was suing individuals who downloaded songs off file-sharing networks like Napster, and artists were complaining that the market was undercutting them to the point that they no longer felt compelled to create.
Here we would cue the tiniest violin in the world playing a sad, sad song for those artists whose work was swallowed up by the digital age, but Radiohead took care of that for us in 2007.
With only 10 days notice, the English rock band released its seventh studio album, In Rainbows, that fall on its website for pretty much, well, free. To be precise, they asked consumers to cough up however much they thought the album was worth.
So of course, they didn’t make any money off the album, they split up the band and in an effort to secure their way of living each took up positions in the London labor force – err, labour fource. Whatever.
Right? Wrong. The band cashed in big time. Despite the free offering, Radiohead sold over three million copies of the physical album within a year after it was released through traditional outlets a couple months later.
In Rainbows debuted at No. 1 on both the UK and US charts, won the two Grammy Awards and notched itself at #336 on Rolling Stone Magazine‘s revised listing of the “Top 500 Albums of All Time.”
Sure, the band was already a top-seller before its “audacious experiment” – one that was heavily criticized by its peers in the industry as arrogant. And, in fact, Radiohead hasn’t pulled a similar stunt since.
But the damage was done: No longer could the industry make a blanket supply-and-demand statement about the day digital media killed the rock star.
“At a time when the music business was desperately trying to stamp out piracy and file-sharing through scare tactics and Goliath-type lawsuits, Radiohead simply demonstrated that the Internet can, in fact, be used for good,” writes Sandra Canosa in last month’s excellent retrospect for Highbrow Magazine.
“Really, In Rainbows was not so much a rebellion against the music industry as it was a new business model proposal. Just because we’ve always done things a certain way, the release seemed to say, doesn’t mean that that’s the way it should always be done.”
A decade and two albums later, Radiohead persists as one of the biggest acts around. Love them or hate them, you gotta respect them – and Robert Chase will do exactly that with a few spins of the album in question this Friday.
Also on the turntable Friday:
-Craig will kick us off with a two-LP compilation of Eric Clapton‘s earliest solo work, Eric Clapton At His Best.
Released in 1972, the now-out-of-print album was the Polydor label’s first big attempt to cash in on the guitarist’s previous works after its US licensing deal expired.
The album contains most of Clapton’s hits from his eponymous solo album (1970) as well as his lone albums as bandleader for both Blind Faith (1969) and then Derek and the Dominos (1970-71).
-Alanya will follow up with one of 2015’s best releases, Alabama Shakes‘ Sound & Color.
The southern rockers were under a lot of pressure to deliver something great after the breakthrough success of Boys & Girls in 2012 – and deliver, they did.
Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the album received six Grammy nominations and won four – including Best Alternative Music Album, Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) – as well as Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for “I Don’t Wanna Fight.”
-Finally, Tommy will close out the day with Bear’s Den and their 2016 release, Red Earth & Pouring Rain.
The British folk rock band built its audience on the road, touring with Nathaniel Rateliff and opening for Mumford & Sons in 2012 and 2013.
It cemented its arrival with its nostalgic debut release, Islands, in 2012.
The new album, which garnered the band Artist of the Year and Song of the Year nominations at this year’s UK Americana Awards, demonstrates a trajectory of growth for the young band, according to critics.
“It makes each track reminiscent of a chapter in a book that’s hard not to get engrossed in and fall completely captivated by – especially when vocalist and guitarist Andrew Davie’s lyrics are so vivid in their imagery,” writes Shannon Cotton of Clash Music.
Finally, it’s Friday! It’s Vinally Friday, on the Trail 103.3.