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Editors’ Tom Smith: Digital ‘In Rainbows’ release was selfish

Yes, here we go again. Radiohead’s ‘pay-what-you-want’ model for the release of ‘In Rainbows’, now two years ago, is still a topic of discussion. Tom Smith from Editors thinks releasing the tracks for free was selfish.

Recently the debate on file-sharing has started again, including Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, who is a director on the board of the Featured Artists Coalition. Last month, Ed has hit out at the UK government’s plan to cut off the internet access of persistent illegal file-sharers: “It’s going to start a war which they’ll never win.” The FAC said “heavy-handed” tactics may turn fans away from music for good.

No other than Lily Allen replied, saying that music piracy is having a dangerous effect on British music and referring to Ed O’Brien and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason: “It probably is fine for them. They do sell-out arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world. For new talent though, file sharing is a disaster as it’s making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge.”

Now Editors’ Tom Smith joined the discussion by saying that letting fans pay nothing for the record conflicts with their campaign on encouraging people to pay for music, because by giving it away for free, it created an unfair standard, when unsigned indie bands are struggling to make money from their craft.

Tom Smith backs Ed O’Brien, but told BBC 6 Music: “It’s a weird thing to say that but in giving it away for free, it didn’t feel like it had any connection to the bigger problem and it was selfish. But it wasn’t like they started it, it was a continuation of an ongoing problem.”

The Editors frontman continues: “I do think it is important to make a stand,” he said. “What I find hard is that, paying for music doesn’t seem normal any more. It’s like music is just background, you can just grab bits and pieces rather than an album as a whole, but I think the big artists have a responsibility for the smaller artists, to speak up when things are going wrong. I also find it weird that they gave their album away for free. I think that’s in direct conflict to that.”

Update:Later, Tom Smith added that his comments were not a personal attack on Radiohead, but that giving away ‘In Rainbows’ did not help in tackling downloading: “All this debate… it’s hard getting involved because I don’t offer a solution,” he told NME Radio DJ Iain Baker. “I’m not saying they [Radiohead] started a problem, I’m not spearheading a campaign against them. The problem is devaluing music. Radiohead gave away their record for free… big bands have responsibility for small bands.”

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  • So… what do you suggest?

  • How come it’s always the crap artists who complain or call out Radiohead?

  • if I recall correctly, they did not give it away for free. they allowed listeners to pay whatever amount they chose. nobody had attempted this before and the outcome was unknown. it seems unfair to criticise someone for trying a different approach when they, themselves, had no idea what was going to come of it.

    not to mention that it was also a big FU to greedy record labels and Radiohead made a shed-load of money out of it, but when you put in all that the band does and end up making the best music in the world, what else would you expect?

  • I just find it amazing that half a million people paid for music when they didn’t have to (and then a load more chose to pay for the physical release)

  • I’m tired of hearing people chastise Radiohead over this. The In Rainbows release was an exchange between Radiohead and the fans of Radiohead. Yes there are implications for the whole industry, but it doesn’t mean that everyone now has to switch the Radiohead model for future releases. Though obviously I wasn’t there during the brainstorm, I seriously doubt that Thom and Co thought it was going to be a cure all for the industry. Instead, it went to show that you didn’t have keep doing the same thing over and over again. Seriously. The lack of innovation in terms of marketing and product in the music industry has, in my opinion, been one of the key elements in the decline of music sales. Yes it coincided with the rise of the internet. The industry didn’t leap to find new ways to sell through it, so it suffered when its fans began to adapt to life with the internet .

    Rather everyone wants to point fingers at those ‘file-sharers’ who have ‘devalued’ music. Bullshit. If that were the case the no one would have paid for In-Rainbows and the physical release (which happened after the pay-what-you-want release) would have tanked as well. That didn’t happen.

    Tom Smith comes close to the saying something intelligent when he states “[the release[ didn’t feel like it had any connection to the bigger problem and was selfish.” What is this assumed connection between a band and the industry? Why is Radiohead or any band for that matter supposed to solve the industry crisis? Radiohead came up with an idea that reflected their ‘brand’ and would work for a band in that particular situation. Calling them selfish and blaming them for the de-valuement of music is just myopic.

  • Doesn’t he mean, self -“less?”

  • BINGO, Jake…you hit it right on the head

    “The In Rainbows release was an exchange between Radiohead and the fans of Radiohead”


    a NEW story where tom talks some more… lmfao.

  • It seems the music industry is catching up on the events of 2007… good job…

    Music is free (for now at least) whether they like it or not, and bitching about it won’t make people pay for it, making good music will.

  • My biggest issue with this story is the whole ‘giving it away for free’ thing. RH did not ‘give it away’.. they simply stated ‘pay what you want’. And people did. So much so to the tune that in the end they made more money combined than any label ever paid them. So looks like ‘giving it away for free’ turned out to be a pretty good deal.

    The key here is that they have a fanbase, and they know that. Could it have backfired? Sure. Anything can backfire… but if you don’t take the risks, you’ll never learn.

    They risked, and it paid off. Kudos to them. If only we can all be so risky and adventurous.

    As for Lily… she’s got famous people in her family… so I don’t even want to hear about comparisons to artists that ‘struggled’ to get where they are.

  • tbh, if i couldnt just download albums for free i wouldnt be into half the music i adore. And even when i have scraped enough money together to purchase the Cd’s in the shops i still cant find dEUS, missFlag or LemonJelly. Gonna have to amazon those bad boys.

    Lets hear it for illegal downloading! 😀

  • I wish these whiny musicians would get it into their heads that the In Rainbows release was an experiment that was born out of the bands outrage over early album leaks. They might also find out that the band believes that most of their fans value music enough to pay for it. I guess they would have to make an effort to find out what the band has actually said about it.

    But this dude does make the effort to publicly denounce Radiohead’s actions based on what the stupid music industry media has said about their motives instead of what the band has plainly stated. You would think he would know better.

    BTW, big artists have already contributed a lot. Just listen to The Editors and you’ll hear the sound of every band that they’ve ripped off.

  • I’ve acquired music by alternative means. Upon listening to the music, I decided to go see most of the artists live.

    So, rather than putting the money in the record label’s pockets, I put [most of the money] in the artist’s pocket.

    Moral: your band better be fuckin good live.

  • “…you can just grab bits and pieces rather than an album as a whole”. I buy entire albums from Radiohead and a select few other artists. Why…Radiohead and a few others consistently put out albums that I can listen to without repeatedly pushing the FF button to get past some crapy filler song. Many artists have only one or two songs on an album that “I” like. Why would I buy an entire album if I’ll only listen to a couple songs repeatedly. Radiohead have created music that moves me and I will gladly pay for the privaledge to own that music. If new bands want to sell their music, then deliver a product people want to pay to listen to.

  • ”the big artists have a responsibility for the smaller artists” – what the fuck are they talking about?
    They just want to earn money on such great progects like ”Radiohead” and there is no need in writing that is ”was swlfish”. Or was it selfish not to bring money to Smith for… noting? It’s better to call things their names.

  • Rita’s right, people who should know better are commenting without understanding Radiohead’s reasoning at all. And Ed was realistic enough to compromise with the varied opinions at FLAC, calling that ‘hypocritical’ (to paraphrase) shows no understanding of how an organisation like that needs to work.

  • Yes it’s all Radiohead’s fault the editors are dog wank and they didn’t sell many records.

    It was 2 years ago FFS get over it.


  • One reason RH did this was that they had seen past albums leak early and wanted to leak it themselves, and make some money through it. The other reason is them not being on a major label.

  • They didn’t give it away for free.
    They charged money for a physical product (which many people happily bought), and they allowed the customer to pay what they wanted for the digital files.
    It was a very interesting and exciting experiment for Radiohead, but it was not meant to represent a permanent and viable business model for the future of Radiohead or the music industry as a whole.

    Why don’t people have such a hard time understanding that?

  • I don’t understand why Lily Allen is complaining. She’s not even an emerging artist, and if she wanted to sell out arena tours, maybe she should be a better artist.

  • Christ, it was two years ago. Let it go!

  • “I don’t understand why Lily Allen is complaining. She’s not even an emerging artist, and if she wanted to sell out arena tours, maybe she should be a better artist”. should be a better artist?¿? this is the most stupid comment ever… be popular requires be a little whore. and Most of the real artists they don’t think be better by selling his craft with popular tunes and slogans, just they think be themselves,,,,,, and about popular tunes and songs if kid A would have been the first radiohead album,,,we never had been discussing this.
    music is about the performance,,, always have been like this,,, record album It’s a commercial tool from the music industry,,, the album format is dead,,, music is about the piece, the tune, the song and there’s nothing selfish about it.

  • Incidentally, the new Editors record is utter shite.

  • There is no question that Radiohead do a good job of promoting the small artists. They frequently name-drop bands I’ve never heard of before (e.g. via Thom’s office charts) and as a result I’ve gone and bought some of these artists’ albums. I’m sure other people have done so too. The band are by no means self-absorbed. To call the release strategy for IR “selfish” is fucking retarded. How can it be selfish for a successful band like RH to give something back to the people who invested in them over the years (I.e. the fans)!? At the same time it gained their album some publicity and boosted its profile – so what?? – that’s their reward for being creative! It’s not going to make anyone stop buying other CDs. You have to question why people like Lily Allen and Tom Smith are saying these things. What’s their motivation? WHO IS TELLING THEM TO SPREAD SUCH BOLLOCKS?? If the music is good enough, people will buy it. If it’s too expensive, people will steal it or just leave it alone. That hasn’t changed because of In Rainbows nor the internet. My percieved value of music hasn’t lowered because of IR either. IR was estimated to have averaged between £4 and £5 per unit sold, but I can get “The Back Room” by Editors and “Alright Still” by Lily Allen for £3.99. I would never expect a new band to give their albums away as generously as RH did. Play, Amazon, eBay, CD-Wow and HMV have changed my perception of CD value infinitely more than Radiohead have. What Radiohead have successfully achieved though is making me more aware of the financial implications involved in releasing music. They have made me think about what happens when I don’t pay for music, whereas I didn’t really know or care before. This knowledge has given me a more generous attitude towards paying for good material. Furthermore, what evidence is there to suggest the release strategy of IR has diluded new artists perceptions of the music business?? Also, hasn’t the internet made it EASIER for new artists to promote themselves and sell records??? I feel like I’m being brainwashed by Lily fucking Allen and her bitches!!#!

    The problem with the internet is that it has simply given people a means to “steal” (I use the term very loosely as people also try-before-they-buy) music much more easily, with a low risk of getting caught. So if your music is mediocre like that of Lily Allen and Editors, and expensive, it is more appealing to download it illegally. If this “stealing” is to be stopped, then the internet needs to be policed like shopping malls are. If you had the same chance of getting away with taking a CD from a high street store without anyone knowing, you would be much more likely to do it. Hence, I AGREE that blocking persistent abusers’ internet access CAN solve the problem BUT they need to block a hell of a lot of people’s internet to make a difference – which is NEVER going to happen. The threat alone won’t be very effective, so to make a sufficient impact, a large percentage of abusers need to be banned to strike fear into illegal filesharers. But then that comes with further problems…apart from such strategies having large operational costs, I imagine blocking 5 percent of people who had regularly downloaded music illegally would damage online SALES too. I illegally download music all the time, but I also pay for digital tracks. If my internet got blocked, I wouldn’t be able to pay for digital music either! Also, what about all the other things I buy over the internet? No internet = no eBay and Amazon. If I owned an online computer hardware store, I’d be pissed off. The government is going to contribute to the demise of my client base for the benefit of musical artists. How selfish is THAT by musicians?!?! If a percentage of my customers no longer had access to my business, my income would plummet. Its interesting how only the selfish seem to think it’s selfish behaviour, but are oblivious to their own greed. I feel Ed is right in saying that they government are “going to start a war which they’ll never win.”

    What’s more – I don’t know WTF Tom Smith is on about when he mentions music just being about bits and pieces rather than whole albums. Hasn’t the internet made WHOLE albums MORE available?? Surely if you can’t download albums for free then you would have to rely heavily on the radio, music channels and other free avenues to demonstrate what a whole album was like – not very likely given that these stations just play “bits and pieces.” When have you ever heard The Tourist on Radio 1? Illegal file sharing allowed me to hear the Editors albums in full and realise that once you’ve heard the “bits and pieces,” you might as well have heard it all. I think Mr Smith is shooting himself in the foot with that comment.

  • It’s so bizarre that so many musicians were and apparently are still making an issue of the In Rainbows release, because it shows that they’re thinking of music as a commodity. “I got In Rainbows for free so I’m not going to buy any more music”? That’s absurd. No-one who actually cares about music thinks that way. If these musicians just interested in getting some money out of the casual music listener who doesn’t actually care about music as an art form, they’re obviously free to do so, but it would be nice if they didn’t pretend they were trying to help smaller artists, because I think that reflects poorly on them as musicians and as artists. Casual listeners don’t care about smaller artists and they never will. What these musicians should be doing is writing good music and coming up with clever ways to promote it to people who are actually going to care–which, interestingly enough, is exactly what Radiohead did with In Rainbows.

  • Ok… so if we’re going to talk about the broader ‘music industry’ implications of the way In Rainbows was released again, lets have some perspective on the matter.

    Right now, if you want an album there is a very good chance you will find it on the internet for free very easily. It’s getting easier. People want information quickly and freely, and (get real, music industry) that is how it must be. Human evolution is powering towards more connectedness through the use of technology, and the fast and free sharing of information is key. It’s happening now, whether some suits like it or not. It’s idiotic to fight the very force of human evolution and the collective will of the population. Those who try will lose and be burned.

    What about the music industry then? Well, it might be a difficult situation for “industry” folks, but music itself, creative musicians, are the big winners. In an age where people can find music for free, the music they pay for is a matter of who they choose to support.. like someone paying optionally for In Rainbows, or like myself and millions of other people using music piracy to discover artists we would never have heard of otherwise, and then buying dozens of albums and concert tickets of the ones we respect.

    So, in that world, the big marketing machines that try to cash in on soulless shitty music lose. Who’s going to pay for a big label pop album when they download it first and realize two thirds of the album is filler? Who’s going to choose to support corporations who ‘manufacture’ music based on market demographics and safe bets with little regard for art?

    Bad music will lose its marketability, and genuinely creative music will be more visible (via music blogging and file sharing) and will find a fanbase not only willing, but passionate about buying hard copies, merchandise and concert tickets, in order to support artists they actually believe in.

    Yes, the cold reality is that a large chunk of the music “market” is made up of people who aren’t so passionate about music, and will quite possibly just download everything without ever paying. Sounds bad, right? Well, what sort of music do those people listen to? What sort of music would those people otherwise be buying? Shitty music. Mass-marketed music. The music the radio tells them is cool. This is progress, my friends. Thank god those people don’t have to continue funding the continual barrage of soulless, crappy music.

    Sorry, big label execs. Keep up the fight and you will be left behind. We don’t need middle men – artists can give their music to the people directly, and people can choose who their money supports. Your power to exploit is dwindling. You’re going to have to change and nurture art and artists if you want people to like you enough to give you their hard earned money now. The music industry just got a whole lot more diplomatic. It’ll hurt for some, for a little while, but once we’ve settled into a new dynamic and embraced (legally) our inevitable evolutionary path, the world (and the world of music) will be a much, much better place.

  • People keep bringing up this topic because that’s how they get their names in the news. Works (almost) every time. Ask Lily Allen, Billy Corgan, Robert Smith, etc, etc.

  • paying for music is a relatively new concept in human history

  • Erm, I meant ‘democratic’ rather than ‘diplomatic’ in the last paragraph of my post.

  • The Editors aren’t too bad. If that’s your style of music that you like to listen to, then fine. They don’t change or experiment very much, so it sounds relatively the same throughout. Radiohead is well established as a music group and has the ability/resources/money to sell an album based upon what their fans want to pay. They just didn’t want to have a record deal or mess with anything else. Simple as that.

  • This debate is becoming tedious. How is it selfish? The music is Radiohead’s intellectual property to do with as they please.

    Perhaps Tom, Lily et al. should also consider record shops and supermarkets selling their records at heaviily discounted rates sometimes only weeks after release. Surely this is a major problem in devaluing their music, assuming it was correctly valued in the first instance.

  • agreed dave, 100%, this “Editors” dude sounds like a blowhard. Selfish? Artists should be able to do whatever they damn well please, and to say that it makes it hard for “indie” bands to make money, no shit, it is hard to make money when their are 8 million acts out there who sound exactly the same. The cream does rise though, which is to say that if a band is talented and deserving they will get their following and make their money, it’s a lot of work to be sure, but artists never really made their money from selling albums anyway, just the record fucks in their suits and limos, artists got pennies for their albums, fuck the record companies, the money is in the concert tours and merch, and I embrace the future when artists can sell music direct to the consumer via the internet with paypal and the such and we see teh great big dinosaur that is the record label become extinct.

  • Selfish? Since when Radiohead has responsability if a new artist is crap and can’t sell their music? If a band is good Internet and downloads weill only help them! period!

    HERE is a nice wrap up about what the
    idiot Editors guy was saying and slamming his ideasd about Radiohead intentions.

    ” Editors’ Tom Smith Talks Radiohead and Illegal Filesharing
    October 7, 2009 by Dave Parrack

    The issue of illegal filesharing of music has been much debated in recent weeks, thanks to a new effort by the British government to curb the activity. Lily Allen started a blog about the problem, but then got cold feet and walked away. While other artists are pushing for fairness and compromise in how the issue is dealt with.

    Radiohead are a part of the Featured Artists Coalition which, although not fans of filesharing, are seeking for a better, longterm solution than the ones being proposed right now. And it was two years ago that Radiohead experimented with a different way of releasing an album, making In Rainbows available as a download with fans paying what they felt it was worth.

    But Tom Smith, lead singer of Editors, feels that the two positions are in opposition to one another, and that Radiohead’s In Rainbows release wasn’t good for the music industry.

    Smith told BBC 6Music:

    “It’s a weird thing to say that but in giving it away for free, it didn’t feel like it had any connection to the bigger problem and it was selfish. It’s like music is just background [for file-sharers], you can just grab bits and pieces rather than an album as a whole. But I think the big artists have a responsibility for the smaller artists, to speak up when things are going wrong. I also find it weird that they [Radiohead] gave their album away for free. I think that’s in direct conflict to [taking a stance against file sharing].”

    Smith then clarified his comments, telling NME Radio:

    “All this debate… it’s hard getting involved because I don’t offer a solution. I’m not saying they [Radiohead] started a problem, I’m not spearheading a campaign against them. The problem is devaluing music. Radiohead gave away their record for free… big bands have responsibility for small bands.”

    Smith is wrong. Radiohead can surely offer their music in whatever way they see fit, and In Rainbows was arguably a very successful release for the band. Also, I see no conflict of interest here because far from condoning illegal filesharing, In Rainbows being released as it was amounted to an effort to try and find a suitable alternative.

    Like it or not, people share music over the Internet. And they’re going to keep doing so no matter what laws are brought in. The problem facing the music industry is how to turn people off the idea and persuade them to keep buying records. At least Radiohead are/were addressing the issue and coming up with possible solutions. Which is more than Editors are doing.”

  • Let’s do the math shall we: I’d like to preface this mathematical proof with the fact that I did not pay for any Radiohead album (other than $12 for ‘Ok Computer’ and $15 for ‘In Rainbows’ totaling $27)

    Avg cost of complete RH album = $15

    $15 x 7 studio albums = $105

    Over the course of 11 years of listening to Radiohead and listening to their music from the Internet I saw them live 22 times…yes 22 times.

    Avg cost of show = $60

    I always buy tickets in pairs so I can bring a friend or significant other to enjoy the experience = $120

    $120 x 22 live shows = $2,640 (not including travel, food, beer etc at shows)

    If I just bought the albums without attending the shows Radiohead would have lost:

    $2640 – $105 = $2,535

    And I’m willing to bet there are more people like me who love Radiohead this much.

    In conclusion: Fuck off Lilly Allen!

  • he is also incorrect in the fact that their release model did in fact go in the face of illegal downloading because not only was it ‘pay wht you want’, but the album didn’t leak! it was the first time that millions would be able to listen to an album upon its release, which does take a stance against downloading pre-releases

  • I find that commenter’s opinions of the attacker largely rests of the fondness or lack thereof of said commenter’s music. So I’ll just state that the Editors are shite and produce the worst kind of turgid Joy Division copyist music I’ve ever heard. His comment was much of a muchness and he is, of course entitled to his opinion.

  • Radiohead gave away the album to stick it to the record labels. The point was that the labels are crooks so they might as well just give the music away. The problem is that people just don’t want to pay for music. They will live with what they can get for free and be happy with that.

    I did pay the standard price for In Rainbows by the way. I want to support the music I love.

  • Since when did the “big bands” have a responsibility to nurse and babysit up and coming bands?
    Good bands will achieve success on their own merits. The cream rises to the top and the crap gets ignored.

  • The issue is really about respect. Labels have been screwing artists since their existance, some artists have also been guilty of having one or two decent songs with the rest of the album as filler, holding consumers to ransom to buy the whole album anyway. But now the tables have turned, the consumer has the power and all the labels can do is cry foul, with the audacity to accuse downloaders of being the leaches in the system.

    If you think about it, this is just another way that technology has made a particular profession obsolete. It happened to live musicians during the introduction of sound in film, the “talkies” (this being inevitable, but genuinely unfortunate, as these musicians were often extremely talented). Filesharing has made record labels obsolete in the same way. Unless they can offer something new (and for a decent price) to justify their existance they will die out. Ed is exactly right, theyre trying to start a war they’ll never win.

    Radiohead showed respect for their fans when they released In Rainbows, as well as sending an FU to the labels. In return, RH fans showed respect, not only in the download sales but also in the CD sales. And yes, a lot of people did choose to download the album free (even through illegal means, bit torrent etc), but there will ALWAYS be “leaches” in any system. Would artists rather it be the labels, or people who genuinely like their music (and may decide to A: Promote it by telling their friends/family. Or B: See them live).

  • 2nd rate musicians should be seen and not heard!

  • this is bollocks! as has been seen in the past years, an artists record is nearly always leaked somehow through the internet before the release date and can sometimes just be a rough unfinished version… i think radiohead have succeded in trying to control this inevitability and if even 2 people paid 50p each they would have made more than they would have otherwise. As for lily allen fu%%ing hell who gives a s%%t what she thinks! that gos for editors too! hope this makes sense…


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  • Perhaps if the Editors would stop copying Joy Division and Interpol (who really are a sad copy of Joy Division as well), they’d sell more records, and stop whining.

  • I agree with Venk 100% especialy the last line.

    Ps. wish i had the money you have.

  • What amazes me is that these artists are always complaining about the way Radiohead released ‘In Rainbows’ (as a PAY-WHAT-YOU-WANT release), and yet they say nothing about how Trent Reznor released the last Nine Inch Nails album FOR FREE. He gave away hi-res WAV, FLAC and MP3 files of ‘The Slip’ for free, but Lily Allen and all the other complainers have nothing to say about that. Odd.

    Oh, and I seem to remember that Lily Allen gained a good deal of her popularity through giving away tracks for free on her Myspace.

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