It was a big deal when Radiohead self-released their album In Rainbows online, in 2007, for the price of whatever-you-want. They cut out all the traditional industry middlemen. The obvious casualty, at the time, was the record industry. But Colin Greenwood, the band’s bassist, also remembers that “Journalists in America had stayed up overnight to write the first review as they received the music – again, in the pre-digital age they would have had advance copies up to three weeks before.” Effectively, this momentarily leveled the playing field between traditional journalists and their online counterparts.
Now, Greenwood (that’s Colin, not to be confused with his brother, Jonny, who is the Radiohead’s lead guitarist) has published an article describing their radical decision and evaluating the state of music, music journalism, and the Internet, in light of “another group of songs” that he says Radiohead has just completed. Writes Greenwood:
There are signs that the net is moving out of its adolescence, and preparing to leave its bedroom. I have noticed on the fan message sites that a lot of the content and conversations have grown up, moved away from staccato chat and trolling, to discussions about artists, taste and trends, closer to writing found in music magazines.
His own offering is a prime example. But regardless of the content, the article is significant as yet another example of Radiohead’s successful embrace of the Internet as a means of distributing media rather than reliance on dying industries that produce more concrete and much more expensive material. And it’s another reminder that bands no longer really need music journalists to mediate between themselves and the public.