If you’re wondering what Radiohead’s total haul was, it was possibly about $2.7 million from downloads. Which has to scare the shit out of the music industry and present a considerable wakeup call for recording artists. Because Radiohead collected every penny here. And given that Radiohead’s last album, Hail to the Thief, sold an initial 300,000 (and apparently went platinum), let’s be generous and say that Radiohead collected 35% of the revenue — or $350,000 of the one million+ copies sold for Thief. That’s a considerable difference that not only demonstrates the possibilities of what artists can collect, but clearly shows that the middle-men are about to cast asunder from the vicious cycle. (And you may recall how Courtney Love computed that a band member gets $45,000 to live on, because royalties are often offset by recoupable expenses, even if a record goes platinum.)
Point being: The Internet, in one fell swoop, has changed the landscape with this experiment. And whether other arts — such as filmmaking or writing — can perform similarly is a question that any business-savvy artist should be seriously pondering right now. I wouldn’t dare suggest that the workers entirely control the means of production, but Radiohead’s experiment is an encouraging sign for any independent artist. Ignore the digital medium at your own peril.
© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.