Artists Are Doing It For Themselves
On Oct. 10, experimental British Rock band Radiohead gave the music industry a wedgie by releasing their new album, In Rainbows, exclusively through their Web site as a download. No middleman — you just pay the money straight to the band and it's all yours. In fact, you don't even have to pay for it. The band allowed fans to pay what they wanted for the download (even $0). Out from under their contract with Capitol/EMI, Radiohead's move is being watched carefully by both industry folks and artists (everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Oasis are rumored to be considering a similar approach). Of course, Radiohead is already a pretty big-time, established band (their new albums routinely chart in the Top 10, despite being full of music not traditionally considered "accessible"), so such a maneuver would only prove that artists on the "superstar" level are able to pull such a stunt. A brand-new band would probably have a harder time drawing such attention and moving 1.2 million copies within 24 hours of release. Though sales figures haven't officially been released, some have estimated that, despite the "sliding scale," the download might have earned Radiohead as much as $10 million. With that in mind, we here at CityBeat have also been inspired by Radiohead's move — from now on, our newspapers will be available for absolutely no charge! Or maybe we should do the "pay what you want thing"?
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Apparently rapper Nas didn't get the memo from African-American leaders calling for a "boycott" of the N-word in Hip Hop. It was announced recently that the MC, known for his smart, bulletproof lyricism (which often extends beyond the bling-y rhymes of his peers into something more intellectual), intends to call his next album Nigger. Nas declared his controversial title a way to take away the power of the word: In an MTV interview, he pointed to the lack of "sting" in the epithet "cracker" as a goal. A Fox News report claimed someone at Nas' label, Def Jam, said the label would not release an album with that title, but Def Jam's L.A. Reid said he stands behind the artist's decision. (Yes, it's shocking that Fox News got something wrong!) Al Sharpton has weighed in (again — shocking!), saying he is opposed to the artistic statement and feels Nas is helping racists. Unlike, say, Tawana Brawley?
Given the fear-mongering climate in Washington, D.C., some people make themselves feel better by having faith that the government is watching out for us constantly, stopping the bad guys before we even hear about them. (Dumb people, mostly.) If Al Qaeda were to infiltrate the U.S. music industry, plant secret agents to develop musical careers and produced recordings that would make kids wanna be like Osama when they grow up ... well, then we should all feel very safe. Besides keeping numerous foreign musical artists out of the country thanks to "visa issues," we can be comforted in knowing things like this: Death Cab for Cutie side projects are carefully inspected before they are allowed across our borders. DCFC guitarist Chris Walla recorded his debut solo album in Canada and when a courier tried to send the hard drive with the master recordings back to the States, the drive was confiscated by Homeland Security for dissection. Walla told MTV that his hands are tied and he doesn't expect to get the drive back, because "I can't just call their customer-service center and ask about my drive ... (and) you can't take a black hole to court." Walla had back-ups, but he'll have to remix and master everything (he still hopes the album will be out Jan. 29). And, a tip to our government — Death Cab's Ben Gibbard is working on a new Postal Service record! Time to up the "terror alert level" to orange (or maybe even a reddish orange, almost maroon color ... this is serious folks!).