Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dollars & Cents

It feels a bit ungrateful to quibble with Radiohead's pay-what-you-will release scheme for the upcoming In Rainbows, but did anyone else notice that to get all the music you have to drop around 80 bucks for a deluxe "discbox" (including two LPs I would guess the majority of consumers will never play)?

I'm all for artists getting paid and I suppose it's cool Radiohead still has an appreciation for LP culture and collectors in general. But if they're trying to be so egalitarian, save energy, subvert capitalist norms, why force us to pay so much to get all the songs? (I have no problem paying extra for art which can't really be had in a low-cost digital equivalent.)

I'm not sure. Perhaps the band isn't trying to be political, but just responding realistically to the MP3 age. After all, they've never shied from elaborate and expensive releases in the past; and maybe this isn't so much about saving us money as presenting more diverse options for spending it. (Have any economists chimed in? Will Radiohead make any money on this deal?)

Also, I suppose one could argue at least they're doing something, and that from a band who commands such market power it's all the more meaningful. Still, I think of this bit of ham-handedness off Amnesiac and feel a bit confused:

"We are the dollars and cents and the pounds and pence
And the mark and the yen, and yeah
We’re gonna crack your little souls
We’re gonna crack your little souls"

I'll take Fugazi over Radiohead for DIY credibility any day. But for better or worse, when it comes time to listen, ethical considerations quickly fall away. One week to go, folks. . . just one week to go!


Kevin said...

Hooray for a post from Jake!

alice said...

I recently heard a statistic that bands now make 2/3 of their money from concert tickets and t-shirt sales, and 1/3 from album sales. Forgive me for being a cynic, but when was the last time you saw a Radiohead show for less than $35? Admittedly, they may be constrained by large venues that charge exorbitant rates to rent out, but I am still skeptical. They are guaranteed a sellout show every time. They sell a ton of pricey Radiohead-themed goods, and everyone buys their cds. EVERYONE. Old people, kids, hip-hop fans, electronic fans, indie-fans, classic rock fans...I mean, who do you know who doesn't listen to Radiohead? I assume (with no actual proof) that they are all financially set for life. So if they were true socialists they would be donating their profits to people who need it more.

The thing is, I hate it when someone (corporations are considered people too) tries to do something good (ie. the pay-what-you-will scheme, and I think we can agree there is no ill will in this plan) and all they get is criticism. Because everyone could always be doing something better. I feel like if we always focus on the negative when someone does something good (whether or not it's to improve public image thereby leading to greater wealth down the road) we are not being particularly productive. We don't need to give anyone any excuses not to be humanitarian, plus I think a more positive view could be contagious. I still feel the need stay vigilant and hold people accountable, but sometimes I need to remind myself to save all those cynical comments for a more appropriate time. For example every day other than the ones a good deed is announced.

alice said...

p.s. Fugazi still only charges $5 for their concerts.

MCW said...

I did three double takes when I saw this post. It sounded like a "Jake" post, but I was very doubtful. I scrolled down really fast expecting Alice's name.

After reading Jake's name several times, I came to the conclusion that it is the real thing.

Anyway, I look forward to the Radiohead album. If it's anything like The Bends or OK Computer, I will be very happy.

Anonymous said...

I may be wrong, but I understood the move to be a slam against the record labels who useually get nearly 90% of the album sales. Yes, illegal downloading hurts the songwriters the worst, but when the songwriter willingly gives away the music, the record label bleeds.

Also, can we complain some more? They gave the studio album away. And the deluxe package has a huge amount of stuff, well worth the $80. If you don't have it spend, you can do what I did and download the album for free.