A few weeks ago, Radiohead did something. To borrow from Dave Bowman, “something wonderful”. That it hasn’t been featured on Saturday Morning Tuneage in the intervening weeks (despite my leanings on the subject) is purely an artifact of the availability of more-interesting or more-pertinent things to talk about. I like to let SMT be guided by experiences and stories, not my ideology, but this week will be an exception.
Plenty of face-time on daverea.com has been devoted to the topic of Digital Rights Management, a blanket name for technologies used to restrict the way media or technologies can be used. Plenty of space has also been devoted to promoting ways to avoid spending our hard-earned dollars on purchases that are shackled with DRM. You’ve heard it said here plenty of times before: we shouldn’t be restricted in the ways we can fairly and legally use what we’ve bought and paid for.
If I take this discussion a level higher, I start sounding like my friend Chris over at Dimen Designs, a music lover and constant evangelist for the new and changing business models that are forming as the world of Music and the world of the Internet merge. The reality of the situation, which Chris conveys far more eloquently and stylishly than I do, is this: The way content gets from its creators to its consumers is changing. The way content’s consumers compensate the creators is changing. The ways that disseminators of that content move it is changing. That Which We Value is shifting, and people are demanding greater degrees of choice and freedom.
One band is listening. For Radiohead’s latest album, In Rainbows, they decided to do something totally new. The initial distribution was to be via Internet download, and purchasers were free to choose the price they wished to pay. Paying nothing works just fine. Paying a hundred pounds works great too. Or anything in-between. The downloaded files are DRM-free, part of the way Radiohead has taken freedom to another level: they’ve given the consumer freedom to use the work as they wish, and they’ve given the consumer freeom to pay what they feel it’s worth.
Granted, Radiohead has enjoyed enough success that they can easily afford to break this new ground. Also Granted, I haven’t even heard the new album. But I’m going to give it a thumbs-up anyway, because part of what Saturday Morning Tuneage is about is innovation. Most of the time it’s innovation in music, but this week it’s innovation in how the music reaches us. If we want to continue seeing these sorts of innovation, we need to support it. So even if you go and buy In Rainbows for 50 cents, or play freeloader, you should go grab it. Doing so is a way to speak through numbers – to show the world one more reason that “business as usual” isn’t going to cut it any more, and freedom’s move toward centrality in the experience of that which we value must continue.
Sorry for the brief interruption – we’ll return to your regularly-scheduled Saturday Morning Tuneage next week!