December 19, 2007
The future of music, according to David Byrne and Thom Yorke
The good folks at Wired completely understand what people like me want in this world: they got David Byrne to interview Thom Yorke about the digital release of the Radiohead album, the future of music, and pretty much everything that's strange, wrong and/or interesting about the music industry.
It's not too long, worth reading. There are also lots of audio snippets of their conversation. But here are a few highlights:
- Radiohead made about $3 million from download sales of the "In Rainbows" album, which is more than they have ever made from all digital sales of their earlier albums combined.
- This is probably because EMI, their former label, gave them exactly $0 for digital sales of their music. Wow.
- David Byrne makes most of his money from licensing. Radiohead make most of theirs from touring. Albums sales hardly enter into it.
- In spite of everything, both guys still think releasing albums, rather than a song here and there, makes sense. Yorke: "Songs can amplify each other if you put them in the right order." He says it would have been snobby not to release an actual CD of their album.
- This is probably already obvious to everyone, but Thom Yorke explains it well: The old system where labels sent advance copies of CDs to the media so the albums could be reviewed in the press pre-release was all for the goal of making albums chart high in the first week they were released, which nobody really cares about besides labels--bands or fans sure don't. And this very practice is what allowed (and encouraged) people to leak and download music pre-release, which has largely brought about the nosedive in CD sales over the past few years. You manipulate the fans, they bite you in the ass.
- Best part of the interview: both guys realizing that record labels are spending all their time worrying about distribution and DRM and licensing and suing people if they think they're getting ripped off-- which is all just "the delivery system". They have forgotten why people buy music in the first place. Byrne says, "people will still pay to have that experience"--connecting with music they love. Yes, yes, yes.
In related news, MTV calls 2007 The Year The Industry Broke, with a blow-by-blow recap of all the events signaling the end of the music industry as we know it. There are a lot.
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