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The Tao of Radiohead

in notepad

My thought here has very little to do with the music itself. (Although, if you must know, King of Limbs has grown on me quite a bit.) It has more to do with the method employed in interfacing with the world over the last five years or so.

Whether you actually like the band or not, it’d be hard to say that Radiohead’s releases post-OK Computer haven’t been hugely anticipated events. This is not due to agressive marketing campaigns, or crack street teams, or glad-handing the right executive, or showing up on the right late night shows, or social media virtuosity. Those are all just nitrous boosts that can be employed to propel any old bucket of shit onto the shelves at Wal-Mart. No, it’s far more simple, and thus orders of magnitude more difficult, than that. They make music that kicks your fucking ass. People want more.

When they dropped In Rainbows in 2007, industry watchers and business pundits alike tried to make it into just a music business story, and that the lessons to be learned here only apply if you’re a band or you’re at a label. The focus was on the web-only delivery; supposedly the medium was the message, with a side order of double fisted middle fingers to the music establishment. What followed were more tired lines like ‘the CD is dead’ and other such garbage that everyone already knows anyway, things that only scratched the surface of the quiet, imperceptible revolution this was signaling, that goes much deeper than just Radiohead, or the music industry, or business in general.

They decided to release it a day early, pretty much because they could and they felt like it. That’s unheard of in the world of Big Content. In that world, the announcement of the announcement of the release date is hyped weeks in advance. Spend fifty thousand dollars producing an album and fifty million promoting it. Yea, the web enables Radiohead to sidestep the ugly, now grossly unprofitable, sausage making apparatus that is the music industry, allowing them to cut out the filters and deliver music directly to their fans; but that’s not what this is about.

It’s Friday… It’s almost the weekend…It’s a full moon….

You can download ‘The King of Limbs’ now if you so wish!

Thank you good people for waiting … Have a great weekend wherever you are…

That’s what this is about. Three lines of 11 pixel text to announce what will be one of the biggest albums of the year.

I doubt they’ve codified it such a manner, but if I could take a stab, here’s what I think the Tao of Radiohead looks like:

  • Create for yourself first. Make something that makes you happy.
  • Shut the hell up about what you’re creating until it’s done.
  • When you’re done, tell a few people, don’t be a self-promoter. If what you create is good, it will promote itself, as people like to share good things.

I don’t see a way to bring a better conclusion to this entry without sounding like a self-help author. Just think about it.