Is Radiohead All About the Benjamins?

Dec. 27, 2007
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It's difficult to summon too much sympathy for a major record label, but a new London Times article about Radioheadthose Robbin Hood-esque rockers who, the story goes, reclaimed their music from their evil label and dropped it into the hands of the peoplepaints the band as the villains and the record label as the victim. The article depicts Radiohead as greedy bullies demanding unreasonable sums of cash from EMI, money that the label argues would have come out of the pockets of their other acts:
Radiohead walked out of EMI in the autumn after Guy Hands, the group's new boss, rejected a deal with the top-selling rock band that would have cost the record company more than 10 million, The Times has learnt.

The massive demand is far greater than had been thought. The critically acclaimed band had been offered a 3 million advance by Mr Hands for their latest album, but wanted more.

An EMI spokesman said last night: "Radiohead were demanding an extraordinary amount of money and we did not believe that our other artists should have to subsidise their gains."

The band's management hit back, saying that it believed that more high-profile artists could abandon EMI. It accused Mr Hands of not negotiating seriously.

Radiohead wanted EMI to hand over at least some of the copyrights to their catalogue of albums such as OK Computer, a demand that would have devalued EMI's recorded music catalogue and cost the British music major millions in future earnings.

Giving Radiohead the rights to their last two albums would have presented EMI with a 4 million loss. It is believed that the band was also seeking a guaranteed 3 million EMI budget on international marketing for the new album, although their management does not accept this figure.

Only after talks broke down did Radiohead attempt their (temporary) "pay what you like" experiment for In Rainbows.

Meanwhile, in Jay-Z News: The Radiohead negotiations article brings to mind this week's other big music news story, Jay-Z is stepping down as Def Jam president, also after making ambitious contractual demands. It's possible Jay-Z was high balling the label in hopes that they'd release him, allowing him to focus on his music career and other business ventures, but if his requests were reasonable, the label probably made a mistake letting him go. In an era of slumping hop-hop sales, Jay-Z moved the label into more lucrative pop terrain, breaking artists like Rihanna, and assisted in Kanye West's ascension. He also restored some of the label's previous prestige, taking a chance on excellent rap albums like The Roots' Game Theory. Hurting his case was the modest sales of his own albums, but all things considered Jay-Z served the company well.


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