U2 vs. Radiohead: Two Managers, Two Very Different Views Of The Future Of Music

Two mega-managers have two very different views of file-sharing and what to do about it.

U2 logo

 would fix the music industry by shifting
"the focus of moral pressure…on to the multibillion dollar industries that benefit from these tiny crimes" and "by engaging with and obliging ISPs to deal concretely with infringement on their networks."
Radiohead logo
"File-sharing by peer-to-peer should be legalized. The sharing of music where it is not for profit is a great thing for culture and music."

Who is right?

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  1. I love records too much to leave them as ads for gigging musicians. I think they were a great way of making a living, but the recognition might have been too far (time and space) from the egos, so that the Radiohead quote sounds sensible in some ears. Moms – give your kids more attention!

  2. “The sharing of music where it is not for profit is a great thing for culture and music.”
    Coming from a guy who manages a band for profit…seems like a sound bite.

  3. I do think we need to stop seeing this as an “either/or” choice. The music industry systems (this is NOT just “the labels” but the existing complex global distribution & royalty collection systems & copyright & global trade laws that they are constrained by), can be amended to make easier what it actually is that people WANT without blowing up the entire system! Or eliminating copyrights!
    I do not want ISPs becoming my overseer and acting like a govt arbiter making judgments on what it presumes I am doing! Just go be a pipeline highway, as you were meant and stay outta my hard drive and private life!
    Likewise I do not want the inane devaluation of the worth of music, writing and art to be seen as “free” and therefore value-less!
    Nothing makes me angrier than seeing the endless, haughty Pied Piper blather of artists like Radiohead who keep proclaiming that music should be free to their following, using free downloads as a loss leader to sell merch & concert tix – when the fact is that no one would know who they are, no one would buy their concert tickets or merch had it not been for the multi-million $$ recording budgets advanced to them & the global marketing, promotion & tour support machine afforded them by EMI to start with!
    They’d be just another screen name/band name in the vast OCEAN of artists with great material trying to get heard!
    Gee, go read their Wiki – they were signed by EMI way back in 1991 – because an A&R man from the label took a chance on Colin Greenwood’s band from meeting him at the record store where he worked! Not because of anything their manager did! They had NOTHING and had menial day jobs! Oh…and EMI also came up with the name “Radiohead.”
    If they don’t care about getting paid, then why are they still registered at PRS and collecting millions of royalties on their songs? Why not perform their concerts for free? What finances them so they can now do what they want and make their own rules?
    Thought so.
    Other new artists & writers also deserve to have the same chance and they will not have that if they cannot earn a living!

  4. I think it’s pretty obvious who’s standpoint reflects the 21st Century thinking. You can’t stop the inevitable. Radiohead’s manager, Brian Message, understands the subsequent benefits of more and more music consumption. It you can rock out a live show, get the music out there as best you can & that investment will be returned.

  5. The real answer is that we need to find a way to legalize peer-to-peer networks and still pay artists for their music. Yes, it’s possible to do both. On the one hand, peer-to-peer is just one very small way in which music is shared- Radiohead is still selling music on iTunes etc (with the exception of the innovative In Rainbows free for all which obviously would not work for many other artists). The comment about radio is on the right track – if artists were paid royalties for music shared from one listener to another we would all win. An organization like BMI/ASCAP needs to track downloads and pay artists accordingly. The money could come from a small tax on ISP service.. Just one idea, I know there are many more, but the solution is going to be much more nuanced that either manager lets on.

  6. once upon a time, 78s were originally to publicise sheet music.
    over time, the 78 became the product.
    when the beatles began their career, artists could have successful careers on the back of singles alone.
    by the 90s, singles were assumed to make a loss unless a vast number were sold – but they served as a great way to promote the album.
    surely the advent of file sharing is only another example of the obsolescence that all music products have met so far?
    if music serves as an advert to sell concert tickets, how can that be a bad thing. perhaps that will lead to more grass roots gig attendance? and maybe that is how bands who can’t get the massive record deals they once could will still be able to have successful careers in the music industry. maybe…

  7. Their both right, we need the flexibility in the market for managers to pursue whichever business model applies to them best. The Radiohead model of business is certainly not a model that would work for many other bands. Sure many of my independent artists give their music away for free but we’d still like to keep a clientele that purchases our C.D’s.

  8. The Radioheads and NIN’s are Major label acts. No more theories from them about Free and where this industry should go. They are just in “Reaping” mode – reaping the benefits of all the major label $$ promotion they received over the years. Their approach is totally unrealistic for the new up-coming artists.
    I see nothing wrong with a small sign up license fee charged by the ISP’s going to the content providers ( music, video, software etc..).
    Let’s here from the new model bands -the ones who are doing their leg work and building a fan base from ground up.
    My daughters “Parallels” project ( 5 months old) has managed to kick their live gig fee up from $500.00 a night to $2500.00 in just over 5 months utilizing the tools (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Synclive.com …) available on the net from the new bands. You gotta love the new model.

  9. recording properly has a cost to it. if people are downloading freely those costs cannot be covered. the equipment in their studios need maintenance and….hey…maybe the engineer (who has a skill) should be payed as well as the studio owner who pays a landlord for rental space.
    free downloading is completely de-valuing an industry (whatever its past is) and is a crime. radiohead would be singing a different tune if they were a broke new band today.
    strict laws in sweden have seen a huge rise in paid downloads – we’re talking 99c a song here – c’mon

  10. Radio stations don’t play songs for free. They actually have to pay to play. Unfortunately, it often isnt the artisits who see this money, rather its the big labels behind the artisits.

  11. You’re joking right? Labels don’t get paid for airplay. The publishers do.

  12. Just a few comments about those above:
    1. Radio is not free.
    You the listener are getting to hear the music chosen for you to hear because you are also forced to listen to millions of $ worth of commercials.
    Getting a song on the radio costs the labels millions and tons & tons of daily work by paid employees to jockey for prime spots & heavy rotation on limited playlists. To get a song to be played on enough primary stations in heavy rotation where enough people hear it, want it and buy it costs a fortune.
    The labels do not get paid a dime for this airplay, nor do the recording artists who are performing the song – as Jack said above – the publishers representing the song writers get paid.
    2. BMI/ASCAP etc track and collect royalties for broadcast performance only – that is on the radio, TV, films. And they do this for songwriters and pubishers.
    They do not collect or pay anything to record labels or recording artists.
    Radio, film & TV broadcast have historically been seen largely as a tool for promotion the music to drive SALES. It has only been in recent years that labels can command high sums for the use of a particular recording in a film or TV show and as you can imagine, these are only offered by the TV or film company for songs that they are just dying to use – ie. the big hit famous one.
    They do not pay a bunch of $ for recordings by unknown or struggling artists.
    3. The issue above about selling concert tix is just fine – as long as you happen to be a big performing artist. Many, many artists are not. There are thousands of great songs and records by people who are not keen on being a touring performer or who are good at it.
    Additionally there are millions of songwriters who created the songs, that have nothing to do with concert performance. If Celine Dion rakes in millions in Vegas, the songwriters of the songs she is singing do not, neither does her record label.
    These are historically all separate businesses with complex royalty structures, which interacted with each other to ensure that writers, publishers, labels, artists, promoters, concert venues, retailers all got paid. Not to mention the millions of workers, employees & creative participants who made the song & record a high quality reality.
    God knows how many millions the new U2 album cost to create, produce & promote. It has only been out a few weeks and this week’s sales totals for the whole US is a meager 14,000. This is beyond pathetic and terrifying. These are the type of weekly sales that would have been for a 20 year old back catalog item 5 years ago.
    If you were a songwriter with one song on this album you would have made a whopping $632 from this week’s sales. Your publisher would have made the other $632.
    Even if this album sells 500,000 (Gold) in the US, this one writer with one song on the album would total a whopping $22,500 from sales of his composition. The only other income he will get is based on the hope that it gets played a whole bunch on the radio (or TV/film) so he can get broadcast royalties.
    I do think that if someone really posted the true bare $$s for everyone to see, people would see this issue with a different perspective.
    Here was an interesting article posted discussing the overall tenor of the SXSW vibe on freebies:

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