By Dean Stattmann
In a recent interview with The Believer magazine, Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke disclosed that his band has no intention of releasing another full-length album. Ever. Instead, he said, the group would focus on shorter EPs and downloadable singles available exclusively online. This comes just days after the release of “Harry Patch (In Memory Of),” the band’s latest download-only track.
The internet is an amazing tool in so many ways, and with more of the world moving online each day, it is becoming exponentially harder to make a list of things that cannot be accomplished from behind a laptop. But the relationship between music and the internet has been bittersweet. From Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich’s historic battle with Napster back in 2000 to the recent multi-million dollar lawsuits stemming from illegal downloading, the issues of ownership and unbridled mass-sharing continue to be an itching thorn in the RIAA’s side.
Conversely, groups like Chicago hip-hop duo The Cool Kids and British indie sensation Arctic Monkeys owe it all to the virtual space that has become a staple in just about every home on the planet, with sites like MySpace offering bottomless marketing opportunities to anyone with a modem. Music has made a new home online, and it’s looking more and more like that’s where it will stay.
But throughout audio’s online exodus there has always been something there to anchor the music in reality: The album. Be it in the form of a cassette, vinyl or compact disc, the album is the original form of music ownership. It is something to hold on to. And now Radiohead wants us to let go.
The concept is not entirely new. In October 2007, Radiohead sparked widespread media debate with the release of In Rainbows, their seventh full-length album, initially available only in digital format through the band’s website. Physical copies of the album surfaced months later.
But this time there will be no album.
“None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again,” Yorke told The Believer. “We’ve all said that we can’t possibly dive into that again. It’ll kill us.”
This could just be a sign of the band’s inevitable fatigue following a lengthy career of consistently quality releases. But it could also be the beginning of a tragic industry trend signaling the end of music as we know it.
Photo by flickr user alterna2 under the Creative Commons licence