Archive for March, 2013

Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and other digital pioneers sour on ‘pay what you want’ music

Audiences have come to expect free tracks, but they’re not paying the bills

By Greg Sandoval on


Not long ago, many hoped the Internet would emerge as a music fan’s Shangri-la, a utopian world where any track, no matter how obscure, was available for free, record labels were extinct and artists made a good living because their fans chose to reward them. Acts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails championed this brave new world. “The way things are,” Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails’ frontman, told CNET in 2008, “I think music should be looked at as free. It basically is. The toothpaste is out of the tube and a whole generation of people is accustomed to music being that way.”

 But that dream has turned into a nightmare, according to Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.

In a newspaper interview a week ago, the lead singer for the iconic rock band indicated that he and his bandmates may have done more harm than good in 2007 when they self released the album In Rainbows and allowed fans to pay whatever they chose. By turning music commerce into a sort of large tip jar, the In Rainbows offer was hailed as a forerunner of what the music industry would one day become.


 Yorke said he now feels In Rainbowsexperiment may have actually helped technology companies, such as Google and Apple, strip the value out of music for their own benefit. The way Yorke sees it, the Web music services have sought to turn music and other media into commodities, and in the process made them “worthless.” Radiohead helped whet their appetites for free music and now that’s what audiences have come to expect.

There’s more music available free of charge to listeners than ever before through ad-supported online services such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, YouTube and Vevo.

But these free services aren’t paying artists much. A long list of them have been critical of the royalties paid by the subscription services. Acts such as Coldplay, Adele and Tom Waits initially refused to distribute through Spotify and other subscription services.

Ironically, the large labels are very supportive of Spotify and some of its rivals. After a decade of trying to stamp out digital piracy, the three top record companies: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, now appear resolved to compete with copyright infringement by supporting innovative digital platforms — not so different from the vision Napster and Grokster proposed before the labels sued them out of existence. Said one industry insider: “The labels also appear to have accepted that there’s just less money now in recorded music and that it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.” For these reasons, the labels have embraced business models that may pay less but provide audiences with what they want most: convenient and dirt cheap access to songs. It seems to be working. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, one of the music industry’s trade groups, said last week that it saw its first increase inannual worldwide music sales since 1999.


Many artists seem to be coming around to this way of thinking. Coldplay and Adele are now on Spotify, and in December, the Stockholm-based company announced a deal that was sure to have the doubters scratching their heads. CEO Daniel Ek proudly unveiled a pact Spotify signed to distribute Metallica’s music catalog. Metallica is the rock band that sued Napster and had long refused to even sell on iTunes. Now, here they are, embracing what some artists argue is the lowest grade of digital distribution; allowing listeners unlimited access to their music in exchange for a cut of ad revenue.

And certainly, not all of the new streaming services are welcome by the labels. The record companies are battling an attempt by Pandora to convince Congress to lower the royalty rates webcasters pay. In November, a group of artists also came out against Pandora’s proposed legislation and performed during a protest on Capitol Hill. Linda Perry, who penned the song Beautiful,” a hit for singer Christina Aguilera, said that between January and March last year, “Beautiful” was played more than 12.7 million times on Pandora and for that many plays Perry earned $349.16.

Increasingly, however, it seems that the digital revolutionaries are coming back around to the old industry model for recorded music. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor very aggressively tried to find alternatives to the label-dominated methods of selling and distributing music in 2007 after he dumped his record company. In 2008, Reznor financed a similar song giveaway as Radiohead’s for rapper Saul Williams. After the results were in, Reznor said he was “disheartened” that only 18 percent of the more than 150,000 people who downloaded Williams’ songs chose to pay for them.

In 2012 Reznor established new ties to a record label. In September he announced that one of the band’s he is in, How to Destroy Angels, would join forces with Columbia Records to distribute the LP, An Omen (Reznor recently announced that he is reforming Nine Inch Nails and the band plans to tour this summer).


On his Facebook page, Reznor wrote: “Complete independent releasing has its great points but also comes with shortcomings.” In October, during an event to promote a book by rocker David Byrne, Reznor explained the decision for releasing An Omen with a major label. Reznor told the audience that How to Destroy Angels retains creative control, but when it came to marketing the band members believed they could use some help.

“No one else can write the songs I can write,” Reznor told the audience, “But there’s other people that can do some of that (marketing) stuff. The great part of self-releasing has been control of your own destiny. Nobody has approval. Finishing a song at midnight and putting it out the next day. Getting fans excited with no leak because you have the only copy and you uploaded and you didn’t publish. That’s fun. It felt great, particularly after a long career in the weirdness of the labels. But we wanted a team of people that are better at that than I am worldwide. That felt like it was worth slicing the pie up monetarily.”

Now That You Are A Chancer – My Bloody New Releases

mbv-axe-photoI was chatting to one of the other shops who was understandably bemoaning the current situation in which bands, labels and online sellers have scant regard for such things as releases dates. In particular the madness where some London shops had stock of the new My Bloody Valentine album dropped off to them, others obviously searched out the band and asked for stock while all along shops were being offered the album from a wholesaler at unfeasibly high prices. There were they said now just too many chancers. It seemed a bit harsh but when I looked up a definition it didn’t seem so unreasonable – A chancer is a British term for someone who takes advantage of situations and manipulates them to his own benefit. (noun) 

As another shop said with so many labels now advertising customers will receive their order before the release date it shows a lack of understanding of the term release date. If the public are sent it then it has been released. Shops are simply being given stock after the release date. What is happening is that due to a combination of weakness from retailers who do care and indifference from people like Amazon labels and artists can take advantage of this situation for their own benefit. Clearly if all retail insisted that release dates were adhered to or titles wouldn’t be stocked the situation would be very different.

I didn’t actually realise at the time that March 4th would become a defining moment for all this. My Bloody Valentine’s album official release date is March 4th though they were sending out copies from February 22nd and as I’ve said London shops had copies some time ago. Never mind Scottish shops in particular could console themselves with not one but two major releases from Roddy Woomble and Kid Canaveral. Sadly though Roddy’s album has been available since before Christmas as a limited edition of one thousand and on January 14th it was posted

special edition sold out

14 January 2013

Thank you to all who ordered the special edition of ‘listen to keep’ via this website. It has now sold out. The album will be released by Reveal records on Monday March 4th on CD and digital download. There will also be a ltd vinyl release for the album. You can pre-order the album through the Reveal site. It will be posted out in late February. 

And yes that is right that there is a vinyl version also not offered to shops by the distributor of the CD. And yes it will be sent out before the release date. 

Still we have Avalanche’s biggest selling band of 2010 Kid Canaveral

You can now pre-order our new LP Now That You are a Dancer!

What do I get with the pre-order?

* A sexy slab o’ 12″ vinyl, in a süper-glossy sleeve * A CD copy of the album * You save moolah – only £11.99 (normally £12.99) * An exclusive lyric sheet (available with pre-orders only!) * Free download of lead track ‘The Wrench’ * Free download of ‘Low Winter Sun’ (Becky Becky remix)

All of this will be sent out to you to arrive before Monday 4th March 2013 (unless you live outside the UK – in which case it might take a few extra days to get to you.). They’ll send you the download codes for ‘The Wrench’ and the remix of ‘Low Winter Sun’ by email within 48 hours of your order.

Many of my customers have already told me they’ve bought Roddy’s album. They would be daft not to have done. Twitter was awash with my followers buying the Kid Canaveral album. As I’ve said many times we simply need to offer our customers the same product at the same price at the same time. I don’t want them paying more for an inferior product and I certainly don’t want customers feeling they have to choose sides.

As a business model picking up the crumbs from new releases like this is simply not viable and there are plenty of other things for me to get on with. Clearly none of these artists felt they needed Avalanche’s support and who is to say they are not right. I completely respect their choices as I hope they will mine. At least I can sell the Stereophonics – what do you mean they are offering postcards ? OK Thurston Moore’s new band Chelsea Light Moving with a free poster it is then.