Friday, January 04, 2008

RADIOHEAD FANS & CHEERLEADERS: Ungrateful snobs, petty thieves, etc

"...And that brings us finally to Radiohead because it also has to do with stealing music and the imperious transformation of things which have value into valueless air. In October, Radiohead was applauded by almost 100 percent of the college of pop music journalist snobs for showing us all the way to the future by giving away their most recent album on-line and allowing fans to volunteer what they'd like to pay for it, if anything." -- see here.

Readers can review all the grand claims about Radiohead changing the future and those who delivered them.

"It appears the only losers in this model are old-school retailers," wrote someone rushing onto the field to tear down the goal posts five minutes into the first quarter, at the Los Angeles Times , in late 2007.

"Ask people to 'name your own price' for downloading a new rock album, and the majority will say 'zero,'" reported the Arizona Star in a glum little piece from November. The cruel army of digital music shoplifters had stormed onto the field and knocked those engaged in premature jubilation on their cans. Sixty percent of Radiohead's fans had declined to pay anything for the record of the year.

Now, Radiohead has been shown how many of those who downloaded their In Rainbows for nothing in October were ready to put the physical copy into the top sellers in the first week of January. Almost none of 'em, relatively speaking.

"A retail executive with access to first-day sales figures for In Rainbows says the album sold 40,000 copies New Year's Day," reported the Times today. "If it indeed goes on to sell 100,000 ... that's a significant drop from the band's last album, 2003's Hail to the Thief, which moved 300,000 copies in its first week."

Hail to the Thief!

"The elephant in the room is you already made the album widely available before it hit stores," adds an alleged expert on record sales from Billboard magazine for the Times.

Let's compare the physical sale of In Rainbows,-- an album much hyped as record of the year by pop music journalists from the mainstream. Forty thousand to Josh Grobhan's Noel -- a bleedin' Xmas album -- at 3.7 million.

Many people who bought the Grobhan album were those who don't traditionally steal all music not nailed down simply because pirates have put it on-line. Middle-aged people, y'know -- all those who don't count, and shoppers at Wal-Mart in the hinterlands. Those benighted saps who still buy music, see it as a not unreasonable thing to do, and who don't have wireless broadband or attachment to the teat of a corporate Internet pipe from the music journalism desk at a big newspaper or entertainment magazine.

Stupid Dick Destiny, he actually bought eight of the ten albums he rated in his 'best of' critic's ballot this year.

Here's a recommendation: If most music journalists tossed all the freebies and were compelled to buy the stuff they were going to listen to, it would have a salutatory effect.

This would be how it would work.

They wouldn't have to buy CDs out of pocket. Their publication would. It would divert some overhead to a fund drawn upon to pick and choose what its reporters and reviewers were going to buy and listen to.

Free-lancers, of course, would be largely screwed. But they've been screwed for along time and have learned either to make do or be stenographers for the entertainment industry.

This would break music journalism out of the quid-pro-quo with the record industry it's now locked into in the furnishing of weekly publicity for the yearly schedule of releases -- physical or virtual.

Who would miss such an arrangement? Who would actually cry if most of the daily newspapers and trade weeklies didn't review the new Wineshmutz album the week before its Tuesday release? Not the people who are set to buy it. They don't read newspaper music sections. The idea of BestBuy shoppers reading such consumer reporting prior to their trip to the mall is laughable.

All music magazines and newspapers with entertainment sections get a glut of material flying through the door every week. There's no way to seriously listen to the entirety. The numbers are too great, the volume astonishing. It's been an obvious trend for the last seven years, in collision with mercilessly diminished print space and the fact that pop music sections don't even wish to cover all of it. In such a situation, it is not unreasonable to promote the idea of diverting the promotional stream into the dumpster directly from the mailroom in order to achieve a hard reset of journalistic function in replacement of knee-jerk advertising and telegraphing.

By severing music journalism from the traditional promotional stream, the pipeline of daily and weekly stories tied to the publication schedules of the major and independent labels would be interrupted. Once done, there woudl be considerably less motivation to deliver news that grasps for trends and makes stupid claims or predictions based on an artist's or label's promotion -- which is the standard model of entertainment journalism now practiced.

They could then do more interesting things, like cover the twentysomething thief of the week, people gloating over the demise of the record industry, or the classic rock albums or singles most stolen by high-schoolers.

Never happen, though. Too disruptive.


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