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If you happened to pick up a recent Time magazine, you might have noticed an interesting little music piece about progressive band Radiohead. I've been a Radiohead fan for a while now and have been anticipating a new album for quite some time. They've developed into quite a progressive and artist band and it appears that they are forging a new path again.
The column is short and for those of you who might not have read it, I'll give you a little overview. It talks about how Radiohead has had their contract with EMI expire and is currently considering both signing for a one record contract with a new label and going "label-less." There is even an interesting quote from front man Thom Yorke where he questions why "...anyone needs one..." when referring to a record label.
This doesn't really strike me as odd coming from Radiohead as they've always done their own thing and been a little more progressive. I hope they do release the new record without a record label and am eager to see the result. Smaller artists have been working independently for years and bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin both started their own labels but to have pretty large act like Radiohead go entirely without a record label might just revolutionize the industry.
I've been thinking a lot about the controversy of music downloading and the slumping music industry recently. I began to wonder if all the hype about album sales being down is really just the record labels grasping at straws trying to make it seem like the industry has been declining when really it is evolving. I'd be interested in how ablum sales would look when factoring all the independent albums that were bought if they aren't already. Sites like Garage Band, Cd Baby and The Best Music You've Never Heard, all of which deal primarily with independent artists, seem to be doing quite well. There have also already been major artists that have been known on the Internet long before any record label came knocking and I've definitely seen an increase in the number of bands using the Internet primarily for promotion.
What I haven't seen yet, and it may just be because I'm unaware of it, is a major name band branching out and ditching their label. Well, I had not seen it until now...
If Radiohead can create a successful album without the need for a record label I think we might see a bit of a domino effect where other major bands start to do the same thing. If this happens, it could effectively cripple the music industry, as we know it, permanently, giving rise to a new age...the age of the independents.
Ok, maybe that is a little dramatic. It would be exciting though, as I think we would see a much wider range of music in the mainstream and the chances of any one artist being discovered would go up dramatically.
Maybe producing an album with a record label is just Radiohead being Radiohead, but maybe it is a sign of something far more exciting to come: an evolution in the music industry that would put a lot more control in the hands of the artists.
It'll be interesting to see what happens when the new Radiohead album final does drop and for more than just musical reasons.