Radiohead: Pay Us For A Chance To Make Our Songs Better

from the not-that-appealing dept

It’s been clear for quite some time that Radiohead more or less stumbled into its position as “embracing” new music distribution models. The band has admitted that the idea of doing a name your own price download offering was suggested by the band’s manager just before they put the album online. They didn’t really think it through, they just did it. And, since then, it’s been clear that the band doesn’t quite grasp the wider economics of what it’s doing. It never made sense for the band to get rid of the download offering, but it did. And now, the band is getting some publicity for asking its fans to remix a new single from the band, apparently a song the band has struggled to complete for quite a while. However, the details are anything but fan friendly. Fans are asked to buy the five separate tracks (bass, voice, guitar, strings/effects and drums) and only once all five have been bought are they given access to a program to mix the tracks. And, as a bunch of readers have sent in, the terms are not particularly friendly — basically saying that the fans have no rights whatsoever, Radiohead gets everything and no one should expect any prizes for participating. In other words, this is Radiohead getting fans to pay the band to do its work.

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Comments on “Radiohead: Pay Us For A Chance To Make Our Songs Better”

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Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Radiohead and Wired

Read an article last week on Wired about Trent Reznor vs Radiohead. Said they had been trying to avoid it, but with a comment Reznor made about Radiohead, they had to.
So they had a whole bunch of categories or reasons where the visitors would have to choose who did it better, Reznor or Radiohead.
I believe the overall vote tilted in Reznors favor for the new business model stuff.
Apparently it very very rightly should have since Radiohead wasn’t trying to embrace new all that much anyways.
Radiohead: Pay us to remix our tracks.
Reznor: Here is everything you could possibly need. Please remix to your hearts delight.
Vote: Reznor.

Nick (profile) says:

Yes, Trend did say that the Radiohead “pay what you want” strategy was insincere. And now he proves it further. Fans can download most of the isolated tracks from Year Zero from and then upload the mixes back to the site, all for free. If Radiohead came along with the “Pay us to remix our tracks” idea first, they would seem innovative, but Trent’s deal was better and happened before Radiohead’s offer.

N1ck0 says:

Re: Re:

Its interesting though how the free offering is ‘insincere’. I agree it was done to get more hype to the band. But isn’t that what ‘freeconomice’ is all about?

When you offer something for free the hope is for some form of Ancillary benefit. For Google its advertising and data/statistic generation (they make models to make ads more effective or sell tech services to other industries). With Adobe acrobat its to increase their market share (the more people who know about you the more people might buy something from you). And with Open source its pride, commercial gain, education, experience, and/or recognition (yes not as simple a gain as money, but its still not free of all return).

I’m not really trying to undermine your intentions of calling their action insincere. I too felt it was kind of ‘cheap’ after this news. But really the analytical part of me says, isn’t that the point? Isn’t the insincerity really our invention for trying to justify the fact that radiohead is really selling us a service/product and wants to be popular (for gains both monetary and via ego).

IMHO ‘freeconomics’ is all about the age of choice. Since the cost of offering choice is so small, one can capitalize by offering more choices. e.g. Free TV with adds, or pay TV thats uninterrupted…or even better a choice of the amount of ad intrusion, quality, and speed based on how much you pay (or do not pay). Because time and experience also have value, and some are willing to pay money for it, where as others are not (at least monetarily). But I digress…

Is it really Radiohead that is insincere, or is it the consumer?

Kiba (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I believe that “insincere” mean to not pursue the stragtey outlined in freeconomics to its full logical conclusion and to its full advantages.

The fact that they shut down the download strategy is a sign that they didn’t utilizes freeconomic as much as they should have to gain fullest benefit.

If they were sincere, they will maximize the use of freeconomic for all the milks it is worth.

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Perhaps you missed this little bit that Mike included in the piece:

Fans are asked to buy the five separate tracks (bass, voice, guitar, strings/effects and drums) and only once all five have been bought are they given access to a program to mix the tracks.

Got that? In order to be able to mix, you have to buy ALL FIVE tracks, and once you’ve done the work, you have NO RIGHTS or even claim to credit (which you’d know had you followed Mike’s link to the terms of the “deal”).

The band can (read: will) take credit for your work. And they (and their label) will dictate the terms of the propagation of that song. You aren’t allowed to even put a copy of your mix on your own Web site. You can’t even share it with friends. Nada. Zip. Zilch. According to the terms on the site, you don’t even get bragging rights to having won the contest.

Etch says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not True.
The Reuters link in the article claims the following:
“Finished mixes can be uploaded to, where fans have until May 1 to listen and vote for their favorite. Bedroom remixers can also create a widget for their personal Web profile that will tally votes toward the competition.”

So Essentially, the band will NOT take credit for your work, and its the fans that will rate the remixes, and they will all be available online for everyone to listen to and vote!

I wonder what dream world you got your claims from?

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That would be the dream world of the terms which you might want to read before commenting upon.

1. all rights in and to any remixed versions (“Remixes”) of the song “Nude” (“the Song”) created by the Entrant shall be owned by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd (“WCM”) and to the extent necessary the Entrant hereby assigns all rights in the Remixes of the Song to WCM throughout the World for the full life of copyright and any and all extensions and renewals thereof. If requested by WCM, the Entrant shall complete and sign a formal assignment of copyright to give effect to the foregoing;

2. all rights in and to any Remixes of the original sound recording of the Song (“the Master”) created by the Entrant shall be owned by _Xurbia _Xendless Ltd (“Xurbia”) and to the extent necessary the Entrant hereby assigns all rights in the Remixes of the Master to Xurbia throughout the World for the full life of copyright and any and all extensions and renewals there. If requested by Xurbia, the Entrant shall complete and sign a formal assignment of copyright to give effect to the foregoing;

3. Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway will be registered and credited as the sole writers and WCM the publishers of the Remixes of the Song created by the Entrant;

8. the Entrant will not exploit, or allow others to exploit, the Remixes of the Song created by the Entrant without seeking the prior approval of WCM and Xurbia.

Maybe you’re having trouble with the legalese of #8 and the word “exploit” which the label can define as they wish. Considering they, through RIAA, are suing people for more than $10K per track (each of which they sell for less than a buck) simply for being willing to share it without any proof that it was actually shared, yes, sharing your work among friends would come under “exploit”. You’d be using Radiohead’s music to promote yourself.

Nick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The Radiohead offer was “insincere” according to Reznor because they cosed the online store, and then later came back and said “this is just an experiment, the real release will be physical media and include more songs.” Radiohead got a little spooked that no one would pay them anymore, and then they retreated a little.

Sure, Radiohead is allowed to do what they want. But if goal really was to find the best remix, they would at least let the remixer kick ass in their own right: get the source tracks for free, grant attribution to the remixer.

Hence the requirement to have potential remixers pay for the separated tracks shows that getting the best mix possible is a secondary goal, and guaranteeing there is some sort of financial payoff from the experiment is more important. But there is no reward without risk. Radiohead is playing it safe, so they get crap from zealots like me.

Reznor is held in high regard for taking a perceived risk and getting a great payoff.

Jeb says:


Apparently a song the band has struggled to complete for quite a while?

It’s on the new album. It’s already been released as the 2nd single off the album. This is just a chance to remix something that’s already been released. And last I checked, nobody was forced to do anything. If they agree to the terms, what’s the harm? It’s not like it’s common practice for bands to give fans isolated tracks (I know it’s been done, but it’s still not common practice). I don’t see where all the outrage is coming from.

Ron says:


You can buy the tracks individually. They come in iTunes whatever format. You can burn them individually to disk or convert them to wav, whatever. Then you can stick them in whatever editing software you like.

If you buy all five tracks, you get a pre-built GarageBand project as well.

Nude is on the new album. They struggled to get it right for ten years, then put it out. It’s not like Radiohead is being lazy.

And last, a little context. Rainydayz Remixes was an album put out by DJ Amplive. In the spirit of the Grey Album, it was a remix of In Rainbows with rap lyrics. It was put out without Radiohead’s blessing, but eventually Amplive was granted permission to release it to the public for free. Download it here.

Maybe Radiohead saw something interesting there, so they’re letting fans go wild on the music. They’ll listen to the best mixes. For some people, that alone will be enough incentive to enter.

They are also doing an animated music video contest. There are prizes. Again, the band is reviewing the best entries.

You can interpret all this as a bunch of selling out, but it seems to me like they’re just having fun.

Trevor says:


Selling the tracks as iTunes downloads is sort of cool and unique in itself. The cost is so minimal that it almost doesn’t deserve to be addressed. iTunes is basically a standard in the way people download tracks.

I think of getting an access code to Logic after buying the five tracks as a nice gesture. In reality, most people interested in remixing already have their own software, so this is only meant as making it more accessible to the nubs.

I’m sure they realize it’ll be all over torrent networks immediately. They probably don’t care.

So, as per this article, Radiohead are evil (or whatever) because they didn’t give us their hard work for free? And if they had done nothing, not let people remix, they would take no heat and would have made you happier? This article seems like it’s trying to create controversy where none is needed. I say don’t punish them for trying to do something cool / innovative in an especially old fashioned industry just because you don’t like the terms. They’re not forcing you to buy it and remix it. You gotta remember this is one of the best bands on earth right now.

Trevor says:

Re: Meh

What i meant by best band on earth part is: they can afford to do things on their terms. If they were unknown, it would make sense for them to give stuff out for free as a way to generate publicity / fan base / whatever. But they’re not. They’re sitting on top and can do whatever they want as long as they keep making great music.

Jake says:

I can understand them not wanting anyone to release the resulting remix commercially without getting their permission and possibly giving them a cut -I find it somewhat unlikely that Yes experienced a boost in sales from the lame dance remix of ‘Owners Of A Lonely Heart’ that came out a couple of years ago- and what better prize could any Radiohead fan ask for than having their work appear on an actual Radiohead album? Still, I personally wouldn’t have charged anything more than it cost to keep the server going if they were only getting to do it for the craic.

rhett says:

no rights

You mean the fans wouldn’t have rights to what they make like how the bands don’t have rights because we just download their music for free? Who cares, everyone will do what they want. Kids will download for free and some adults will pay because they are use to it, or feel its right. I will continue to download for free. But at least Radiohead isn’t another sudo-rap-retard group.

Eric (user link) says:

Not exactly totally accurate representation of the

While Radiohead may be doing this “as they go,” they are still at least trying to embrace the fact that they need to market themselves in a different way–not least because they get no radio play whatsoever in the U.S. to speak of.

In terms of the claim that the users have “no rights whatsoever,” I think that’s misleading. Radiohead is simply saying that they retain copyright to the song that they created, and that while the users can have free-reign using the stems to mix the tracks for the contest, they don’t have the right to make money off of it by using them in their own recordings for sampling. Seems pretty fair if viewed in the correct context.

Also, I’m pretty sure that if you did a little digging, you might find out that maybe Apple has its hands in this deal, since you download the tracks from iTunes, and you mix them in Garage Band–two products I’m sure Apple doesn’t mind having in the limelight for the duration of this contest.

Finally, it says pretty clearly that users do NOT have to user Garage Band to mix the tracks, only that they will receive a code to get access to a pre-set Garage Band file to work with the “Nude” tracks.

Sorry, but this post seems to me to be more about whinging than analysis.

Mojo says:

Moby did this pre-internet

I think on one of the singles for Moby’s “Feel so Real” he included all the isolated tracks needed to remix one of his songs.

The fans were encouraged to pull them off the CD and send in their remixes – the winner’s work would be featured on a future CD single.

No money, but some degree of fame.

Very simple and straightforward. I supposed you could say you were forced to “buy” the tracks by purchasing the CD, but any fan die-hard enough to want to try their own remix probably would have been buying the single anyway.

Radiohead should make the tracks available for a free download and offer the winner a standard fee usually paid to remixers for their work and, of course, the fame of producing an official remix.

A contest like this would generate a lot of publicity and good will. Making people pay to download the tracks starts the thing out on the wrong foot.

SteveD says:

Radiohead got spooked

Its clear from the interview that it wasn’t the bands idea and that to them it was always nothing more then a marketing gimmick.

Perhaps Trent is right to call them ‘insincere’, but from the Bands perspective they never claimed to be trying to start a revolution. I imagen they were taken back by the furious debate that followed and weren’t prepared for all the main-stream media coverage.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a band like Radiohead isn’t the one thats going to lead us to the promised land. They made their name and fortune under the old regime, and studies (such as the recent one in Sweeden) show that younger bands are much more accepting of these changes then the old-guard.

Its the established bands that would rather hold on to the past; the world they grew up in and understand. These artists need to be educated just as much as the record execs.

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