Fake plastic ‘up and coming’ band

I pretty much gave up on Radiohead when I heard Thom Yorke utter the words, “we’re all born into a carbon lifestyle”.  When you start repeating things you’ve overheard baby Apple say at a Chris Martin-Gwyneth Paltrow dinner party, you know your time as a cutting edge indie rock star has come to an end.

But that hasn’t stopped Radiohead from continuing to try to recapture lost youth, and at this weekend’s Glastonbury festival we saw another example of self-denial.  First, to go back a few years, Radiohead released their 2007 album In Rainbows for free over the internet, allowing downloaders to pay whatever they wanted for it.  Now, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have turned up unexpectedly at Glastonbury to play a  set on the Park Stage.  The Park Stage is normally reserved for new, undiscovered bands (although clearly having got a gig at Glastonbury means you have been discovered already).

Both of these examples might be considered the actions of a radical, anti-establishment band, sticking up for the music fans against the corporate overlords.  Except it’s a crock.  When Radiohead released In Rainbows for free, for that week after the release they effectively screwed over every other struggling new band out there.  Music fans have a limit to the amount of new music they can listen to – probably one new album per week is the norm.  So if Radiohead – a band we all know and used to love – release an ablum for free one week, it took up the time and space that an album from a new band could have filled (whether paid for or not).  The fact that so many more people “bought” In Rainbows than preceding Radiohead albums proves the point. 

And now by playing the Park Stage they’ve done it again.  A slot on the Gastonbury that might have been filled by a small band desperate to have its music heard has gone to Radiohead.  And of course, Radiohead got plenty of publicity for doing it, just like they got huge coverage of the In Rainbows release.  Whatever counter-cultural ideals Thom Yorke has in his head when he does this stuff, sometime he has to consider than when there is no obvious distinction between “sticking it to the man” and “marketing gimmick”, you’re doing something wrong.

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