And you may ask yourself / Well…How did I get here?

A life­time ago David Byrne and Bri­an Eno released My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Not only was it an addic­tive­ly entranc­ing record, it was also a musi­cal mile­stone.

Its use of sam­ples and loops was absolute­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Sure sam­ples had been used before but nev­er in such a core way that it was the essence of the released record­ing. It quite lit­er­al­ly opened the flood­gates for a raft of inno­va­tions and point­ed the way towards new roads up which thou­sands have trod and con­tin­ue to do so almost thir­ty years after it was record­ed.

It was one of those records…

In 2007 they reis­sued the album and, tak­ing the con­cept one step fur­ther, encour­aged oth­ers to use parts of a cou­ple of tracks and remix them and no cost.

That con­cept was lat­er picked up by the likes of Radio­head who encour­aged, or allowed remix­es of tracks from their last album. That album was the sub­ject of a major flur­ry last year when it was, famous­ly or noto­ri­ous­ly, depend­ing on where you came from, essen­tial­ly offered for sale at the price you want­ed to nom­i­nate, includ­ing free. Then it was lat­er com­mer­cial­ly released.

The, how shall we say, more tra­di­tion­al, arms of the record­ing indus­try took some plea­sure in say­ing the exper­i­ment had flopped, point­ing to the per­cent­age who paid noth­ing, or, more recent­ly to the num­bers who, despite the offer at the band’s site, look it from P2p or Tor­rent sites.

All that of course rather missed the point, that being, that from Radiohead’s point of view, which real­ly was the only one that mat­tered, it was a roar­ing, pro­file increas­ing, mon­ey mak­ing, chart-top­ping and sta­di­um-fill­ing suc­cess. It took them as a brand and a ban to a new lev­el. And the recent round of pub­lic­i­ty only added to the sim­ple fact that they are more cur­rent now than they would ever have been if they’d re-signed to EMI – a Google news search got almost 5000 hits – just on the cur­rent Radio­head news.

The analy­sis of the RH fig­ures came from, pre­dictably, the chief econ­o­mist of the UK col­lec­tion agency, PRS, who was unable to see the prover­bial wood for the trees in his joy to release the down­load fig­ures. Part, just a small part, mind you, of which was that over­all num­bers down­loaded dwarf recent Radio­head sales, and thus the album is in that many more homes, which I’d imag­ine any band or man­ag­er would rea­son­ably be hap­py about.

But Byrne and Eno have tak­en the con­cept one step fur­ther, as you only could in these broad­band times. Their new album, Every­thing That Hap­pens Will Hap­pen Today, was released online yes­ter­day, via a ded­i­cat­ed site which will allow you to lis­ten to their album for­ev­er free, as long as you stream it or down­load a wid­get from either their site or via devel­op­er Top­spin Media. That wid­get is below.

And then, hav­ing lis­tened to the album all day (as I have), which, as an aside is quite spook­i­ly love­ly – far more so than I expect­ed, since I’ve not been a Byrne fan in recent years – I’m able to con­tin­ue doing so day after day, or I can buy it in a vari­ety of for­mats, hard and dig­i­tal, or a mix, includ­ing loss­less FLAC.

It’s hard to see how they could offer more to the con­sumer; how the con­sumer could be made to feel bet­ter about the artist and the record. And how the artist, who gets the bulk of what­ev­er is paid for copies sold, not just a small roy­al­ty against recoup­ment (less pack­ag­ing deduc­tions, and a new tech­nol­o­gy deduc­tion etc blah blah blah), could do bet­ter. It’s a mighty, mighty win-win, even if 95% of folks nev­er go beyond the stream

The sim­ple fact is that it’s get­ting hard­er and hard­er, for acts like this and many oth­ers, to see what a prop­er record com­pa­ny could add to the mix any­more, as they fur­ry around try­ing to rewrite the tra­di­tion­al deals.

Is there any­thing less artist friend­ly than a 360 deal?

I said once before that we are at the begin­ning of the tip of the start of the germ of this dig­i­tal deliv­ery mod­el, and that, as I believe, the iTunes road might even­tu­al­ly turn into a dead end as a wider net­work of search and deliv­ery, per­haps out of the hands of huge cor­po­ra­tions like Apple, takes hold. Espe­cial­ly as there is so much dri­ve to inno­vate.

To quote Top­Spin co-founder, Ian Rogers:

And I don’t think it’s con­tro­ver­sial to say soft­ware will play a role in the future of music mar­ket­ing. Artists, man­agers, and labels alike will use some sort of soft­ware to help them man­age direct rela­tion­ships with fans, find new lis­ten­ers, mea­sure the suc­cess of their busi­ness, pay licens­es and roy­al­ties, etc.

Things like Every­thing That Hap­pens Will Hap­pen Today are a clear point­er that way.

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