back to article Thom Yorke dismisses net-only album paradigm

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has described the idea of releasing the band's In Rainbows exclusively on the net as "stark raving mad", and insists that fans want a tangible "object" - a reference to Monday's physical release of the album. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We didn't want it to be a big announcement about …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    T'aint necessarily so ...

    "Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has described the idea of releasing the band's In Rainbows exclusively on the net as "stark raving mad", and insists that fans want a tangible "object" - a reference to Monday's physical release of the album."

    I take this to read "We screwed up badly and our bank accounts are suffering" - as long as what I'm listening to is remotely decent, I don't give two figs whether or not I get a 'tangible object'. If I want one, I can roll my own whether it be a copy of the album for use in the car or as part of a mix CD.

    Of course, it doesn't help that Radiohead are one of the most overrated outfits in existence ...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Radiohead are dinosaurs

    The physical album is as dead as dinosaurs were then the comet hit. It took dinos 100s of thousands of years (or maybe even millions) to finally go or evolve into something new (see those pretty feathered flying ones out the window for more details). I predict the physical medium based music product will take a lot less time than that to disappear. I maybe be 5 years, it maybe 10 but I pretty much guarantee than in much less than 20 they will be quaint collectors items.

    Anyway what is the fush about Radiohead? Average rockers who got lucky and trendy - I've heard better down my local pub when I was not even drunk.

  3. Christopher Rogers
    Thumb Up

    not fans huh?

    The top 2 comments appear to be by people who do not like Radiohead as opposed to people who give a damn about what Radiohead tried to do. What i see has happened here is instead of completely rethinking their album format, they have experimented with digital music, thus testing the water in this field. There is no denying however, that an MP3 by your favorite artist is not as impressive as having the physical album, released as intended by the artist. I want to have my disk to have the artist name or artwork or both printed on it on it and come in a box with artwork etc. Not say Tesco (or some other supplier of cheap burnable disks) and have the artist name scribbled on in black marker.

    I too can burn disks. But they look shite in comparison to official releases on CD.

  4. Martijn ter Haar
    Thumb Up

    Yorke is right.

    Yorke is right. Buy a cd and you've got yourself a solid backup you can rip to any format you like, often in nice packaging. And that for just two or three euros extra compared to DRM crippled audiofiles. Just like the LP which demise has been predicted countless times, the cd will be around for years.

  5. Richard Kilpatrick

    I bought the special edition thingy...

    I bought the online album, for £3.52. I liked it, though I thought it was a bit "meandering" as Radiohead's style seems to have become. I thought about it, and decided the double LP box was worth the money, as a "collectable" version of the music.

    I don't think it's going to be worth anything in the future, but I like having LPs. Try burning your own vinyl :D

  6. davcefai

    Tangible Objects

    I think Thom Yorke has a point about the punters wanting to posess a tangible object. In my youth I could probably have got away with hardly, if ever, buying an album.

    However, for the bands I liked, nothing beat holding that 10" vinyl platter.

  7. Frank Bough

    I'm no great fan of Radiohead...

    ..but I've seen them live and they were fucking marvelous. Average they are not, both musically and lyrically their tunes are pretty high up the rock/pop pecking order.

  8. David Moore

    Quality anyone?

    The physical album isn't dead, don't be daft. Vinyl sales are climbing year on year, and so long as there are people that care about audio quality there will always be CD's, or some equivalent. Even 'high quality' 320k mp3's on half decent speakers are easily identifiable vs a CD.

    mp3's are fine for portable players, but I know I much prefer a tangible physical product over a digital download, and I know I'm not alone. Even the most ardent audiophiles I know recognise that it's not just about the music... who doesn't like a shiny cd case, liner notes etc?

  9. Ian Sawyer

    bring back the vinyl

    Bring back the vinyl. Have you tried skinning up on a CD?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks for the free download

    It convinced me. CD - no thanks no way. BTW I also heard him on R4 and about 20 y'knows have been redacted from his quotes. How do you know he didn't mean them?

    Better stop now, in case I start getting insulting.

  11. Iain

    Bought the big expensive box set... obviously I believe in the tangible object. And it's an incredibly pretty one. But while I'm a Radiohead obsessive, I can see that some people don't want to lay down £40 just because they like actual CDs rather than downloads.

  12. Tom Hopkins

    Mixed metaphor

    Of course they want the money and this token thing is nonsense. They were already selling the overpriced, collectible 'token' as an alternative.

    However, Christopher Rogers I do think "testing the water in this field" is a lovely mixed metaphor.

  13. Ron Eve

    @bring back the vinyl

    "Bring back the vinyl. Have you tried skinning up on a CD?"

    No but you can rack out a couple of fat ones on a jewel case...


  14. Paul

    Physical media won't go away any time soon

    To everyone who seriously believes that MP3 will destroy the CD, sorry, but MP3 and other lossy formats are a bit pants really if you want to *listen* to music.

    Yes, they're perfectly OK for listening in a car, or on a plane, or at the office, where their crapness is masked by the relatively poor performance of the equipment they're played on and the ambient noise they're trying to drown out. They're quite acceptable for background music too; if I was hosting a party I'd be plenty happy to leave DJ iPod in charge of music while I got bladdered along with everyone else.

    But when I sit down at home with the intent of putting 100% of my attention toward actually *listening* to, and enjoying, music, it's physical media FTW. It's not so much that I prefer the physical media, it's about hearing the music as close as possible to how the artist wanted it to be heard, and right now that means something that isn't compressed all to crap then played through cheap nasty audio hardware.

  15. b166er

    Tangible object

    =MP3 player

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This isn't the first time that he's said this on Radio4's Today Program, I'm sure* I heard him saying that sort of thing in December, insisting that as they were out of contract, so the main reason that they released the MP3s was just a time-to-market exercise. I'm pretty much sure* that he also rubbished the idea that it was a stand against the music industry, acknowledging that this is where their cash comes from in the first place.

    Not sure if I believe it, if you've got the cash to setup the 'Net infrastructure for this sort of venture, and your name is Radiohead, you also have the music industry clout to get a CD pressing plant and a distributor to shift the CDs.

    * The Today Program is on at silly o'clock in the morning, during the commute, hence the lack of certainty, due to lack of proper consciousness.

  17. Daniel B.

    Phys vs. Download

    Silly you, mp3's are for portable players!

    Saying that CD's (and any other physical media) is dead is like preaching vinyl is dead because of cassette tapes back in the 80's. The only difference is that an mp3 doesn't degrade more after initial recording, unless you manage to corrupt that file.

    There are many reasons for wanting the actual media, just see what happens when your download-only software dies: you gotta buy it again. Having the media saves you that extra dosh :)

    And being music, even if everyone has the mp3, you know that those albums may turn into collector items 20 years from now, especially those "limited run" editions. No added value for an mp3, dude!

  18. Governor Beeblebrox
    Dead Vulture

    End of Big Music

    Radiohead are to be commended for thinking outside the box (forgive the pun). Frankly, I don't care whether Radiohead's move does or doesn't mark the end of the CD as a tangible object. What I DO admire is that they told Big Music to stick it and released the album themselves, controlling its distribution entirely. Once the RIAA, BPI, etc. are taken out of the equation, much more money goes to the band.

    With the RIAA taking the position now that everyone who rips copies of legally acquired music to their own hard drives is committing copyright infringment, I am especially eager to see them go down in a flaming heap.

    Go the RIAA's website - it looks like it should be the FBI's or a police department's site:

    » Recording Industry Launches Holiday Anti-Piracy Campaign, Offers Shoppers Innovative Gift Ideas And Tips For Avoiding Pirate Product

    » RIAA Pre- Lawsuit Letters Go To 22 Campuses In New Wave of Deterrence Program Wave Of Pre-Lawsuit Letters Targets Music Theft on 16 Campuses

    » Recording And Film Industries Urge Holiday Shoppers To "Get The Real Thing" For The Movie And Music Lovers On Their Shopping Lists

    » Pre-Lawsuit Letters Sent in New Wave Targeting Music Theft on 19 Campuses

  19. Chads

    seems to have worked

    Had to laugh at Lily Allen on Big fat quiz of the year saying that Radiohead were 'sending the wrong message to kids wanting to get into the music industry'

    Didn't Thom Yorke say they'd already made more money off this than their previous releases?

    Wonder how much more Lily's record company have made than she has.


    You don't need music industry clout to get the pressing plants and distributors to work for you. You've just got to be able to pay 'em (though I guess that can amount to the same thing)

  20. Tim Bates

    I like CDs...

    Net only would mean I don't buy the album ever. He's right that it's mad to go net only. Just because some section of people don't want the media doesn't mean no one wants it.

    I hope downloads never replace packaged products. It wouldn't be the same to just have a list on the computer instead of a shelf of physical product.

  21. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I don't know Radiohead

    So I cannot comment on whether they are good or not, but in my view it doesn't even matter. What matters to me is that they have demonstrated publicly that selling an album online without getting shafted by "the majors" is possible and economically feasible, and for that I thank them.

    The more artists stay away from RIAA and consorts, the quicker that ugly, greedy, corporate malfeasant will hopefully die off and leave us alone with the music we love.

    I prefer a million Radioheads to one RIAA.

  22. James Shepherd

    Just for the record...

    Like others I'm sure, I knew (from the Radiohead site I think) that a 'normal release' was going to happen in the New Year. Therefore, I bought the download for a quid, and I'll get the CD now.

    These guys are not stupid. They, like all true professionals, don't assume everyone else is stupid. For instance, if you got the album off bit torrent - well done. You saved them some bandwidth. 'Course, you might have downloaded a virus.

  23. Iain

    The download was a success

    In that they've already said they made more money in the first week than the sum total of online sales of their EMI catalog, ever. All for a project that was more about getting the record out there in a legitimate manner before some random journo leaked it, as happened with every other release post OK Computer, and making a bit of cash on the side was a bonus.

  24. Kevin Whitefoot

    The contrast should be between lossless and lossy not CD and mp3

    I think that the only reason to buy CDs is that very few albums are available in lossless formats. This is beginning to change though. Anyway it's not only Radiohead that are dinosaurs. there seems to be hardly any innovation in mainstream music these days, just endless recycling. The interesting stuff is beginning to happen on-line and under Creative commons licenses. Take a look at Jamendo, (alright not all 6000 albums are worth even listening to but there is a lot of good stuff and it won't cost you a penny nor harm your conscience). For a particularly apposite track listen to Tryad's Struttin'

    @James Shepherd

    A virus? In an MP3? Does your MP3 player execute scripts?

  25. James Smith

    MP3 is Dead

    Everyone is talking about Lossy digital formats and no one has mentioned FLAC, with cheap hard drive space these days and fast connections why bother with taking information out of the equation?

    I think within 20 years you'll see 96 KHz / 24 bit FLAC files becoming more of a standard for digital files and for those that say it won't sound as good as vinyl will be wrong if the files come directly from the mastering data. Who will have the lossy format then?

    BTW, I've a 96/24 sound card and a nice Linn Sondek which I digitize / back-up my music for playing on my iPod and store most of my albums in this way. Ok it's the exeption to the rule at the moment but over time I think you'll see a shift.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @Quality anyone?

    Seriously, I challenge you. Unless your HiFi gear cost five figures, I simply do not believe you can tell the difference between 320kbps MP3 and the original CD (or FLAC for that matter). Even with your uber-fi system, you'll have to be holding your breath to make sure you can really tell. I'm a quality fanatic, and I can tell 128kbps CBR from 200kbps VBR (i.e. LAME) on good headphones. Beyond that the diminishing returns are almost irrelevant. At best, you're kidding yourself, at worst, I simply don't believe you.

  27. Liam O'Flaherty
    Thumb Up

    ALL mp3s SUCK, end of story!

    Thom Yorke speaks the truth, long live Radiohead! Once again they are setting the trend and getting that music industry out of their pockets; the music industry should work for musicians NOT the other way around :D

    @ Christopher P. Martin

    I've been in studios recording guitar/ vocals for over a decade so I am only too well aware of hi quality audio, and the cost of decent amplifying equipment, but even I (with reduced high frequency response from 15 years of gig attendance and performance) can tell the difference between a 320Kbps mp3 and a FLAC rip of a cd when using an onboard Realtek HD audio chip, a 24 year old Marantz stereo receiver (~£23 inc postage), a £20 Cambridge Audio interconnect, a pair of Infinity bookshelf speakers (£50) and Hellfrauds (Halfords) 2nd best speaker cable. I think you're listening to overly simplified music, try playing Heartwork by Carcass in mp3 format then try FLAC or even high quality OGG and the mp3 sounds TERRIBLE and washed out! Nasty old pop drivel/ house/ rave "music" is passable...but only just according to my informed ears

  28. Anonymous Coward


    When my house gets hit by lightening again and all the computers get fried and my new NAS goes with it I will be glad that I have all the CD's and DVD's in the attic...

    it will be a bitch ripping everything again but better than having to buy it all because no one has any idea of what I have purchased online...

  29. Bruno Girin
    Thumb Up

    Bypassing the music industry

    @Kevin Whitefoot: Thanks for the link, I didn't know about jamendo, will definitely have a look at what they have!

    Although Radiohead are one of the first major acts to do this and everybody's heard of them, other have done it before, nor are they the first ones to come up with the idea of letting buyers decide how much the album is worth. For good music available in a variety of lossy and lossless formats and at a price you decide, have a look at

  30. bogsheet

    MP3 quality - got to agree with Christopher P Martin...

    i am becoming a bit tired of hearing or reading supposed 'audiophiles' harp on about how they despise 'lossy' mp3s and how they listen to cds (or even worse vinyl) on their high quality system because they want to 'really hear' the music. In particular you Paul.

    Take up the challenge - I have. I am not talking from principle, but from practise. If you rip an mp3 well, for example with LAME codec using VBR0, you WON'T BE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE between that and the original cd. On any system. I have tried numerous times on expensive gear. Especially not if you're getting on a bit as your hearing isn't what it used to be... Oh get someone else to test you too, just to make it fair.

    For a good discussion on this topic (and also some info on why vinyl isn't all it's cracked up to be) read the reg comments on ‘Compact Disc: 25 years old today’ :

    P.S. The plural of mp3 is mp3s not mp3's - that apostrophe winds me up almost as much!

  31. Paul M.


    Seriously, you need a better Hi-Fi. Good ones are cheap now, and you should indulge yourself. It's a myth that you need a £2,000 rig before you can tell the difference - just turn the volume up.

    My audio biggest regret is not encoding my digital music in some lossless format.

    I agree with you about the irritating misplaced apostrophe, though.

  32. bogsheet

    back @ Paul M

    Well I don't want to start a flame war... But like I say this isn't something I conjured up out of theory, like I said I _actually_ have tried this. I believe in science, so I performed the experiment, and I have done so on a few different pieces of good quality kit. I have done it with high quality amplifiers, speakers and even headphones to try and cut out any other noise. And yes, the volume was sufficiently high...

    Now maybe your hearing is better than mine, but even if my life depended on it I honestly couldn't hear any difference as long as the mp3s are ripped at highest possible quality. I was able to hear the difference at 128kbps CBR but not VBR0.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @Liam O'Flaherty

    I re-iterate: I simply don't believe you. You are suffering from confirmation bias. The only way to avoid this is to use an ABX test. I would put money on your result being statistically insignificant at 320kbps CBR MP3, especially with the hearing damage you mention. And no, I'm not listening to overly simple music, I'm listening to Opeth.

    @bogsheet- You rock :) Not only do you agree with me about audio, but also about punctuation. Fantastic.

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