Radiohead Puts Every Official Album on YouTube, Making Them All Free to Stream

There are those who say that Radio­head was the last of the great rock bands before the inter­net crushed the record indus­try and pop­u­lar music frag­ment­ed into a pro­lif­er­a­tion of micro­gen­res. Maybe it’s fair to say some of those peo­ple have been hum­ming Radio­head songs since the band’s debut, Pablo Hon­ey, in 1992.

And maybe rock isn’t a thing of the past, it’s just evolved, thanks in no small part to Radio­head, who also helped ush­er in the very stream­ing and down­load­ing rev­o­lu­tion that killed the rock star sys­tem. They did so with sev­er­al ground­break­ing exper­i­men­tal albums that seemed to uncan­ni­ly coin­cide with major shifts in dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy.

Now you can stream all of those albums on YouTube, from Pablo Hon­ey to 2016’s Moon Shaped Pool. Revis­it not only the songs on their debut besides “Creep” but the albums that dev­as­tat­ed, then reshaped, the indus­try, and irrev­o­ca­bly changed the sound of pop­u­lar music.

Go back to 1997, after Win­dows 95 had put mil­lions more peo­ple behind a PC, and hear Radio­head decon­struct the sound of mas­sive gui­tar rock and reassem­ble it into a Futur­ist machine called OK Com­put­er. Oth­er bands were forced to reeval­u­ate their whole approach. The indus­try held on to the old ways for a few more years, but Radio­head need­ed to change as well.

“There were oth­er gui­tar bands out there try­ing to do sim­i­lar things,” said bassist Col­in Green­wood. “We had to move on.” Thom Yorke believed rock had “run its course.” Then came the dev­as­tat­ing dual attack of Nap­ster and Kid A, The shar­ing ser­vice sent labels into a pan­ic. By the time of the album’s release in 2000, it had been ille­gal­ly down­loaded over a mil­lion times.

Not only did Kid A “kick off the stream­ing rev­o­lu­tion,” as Steven Hyden writes at Grant­land, but young inter­net-savvy indie artists just begin­ning to put their own com­po­si­tions online looked to the record’s warped, glitchy dread for inspi­ra­tion, spin­ning its elec­tron­ic exper­i­men­ta­tion into webs of loose­ly-relat­ed genre hybrids.

As Yorke had pre­dict­ed, Nap­ster encour­aged “enthu­si­asm for music in a way that the music indus­try has long for­got­ten to do.” The indus­try began to col­lapse. File shar­ing may have been utopi­an for lis­ten­ers, but it was poten­tial­ly ruinous for artists. 2007’s In Rain­bows showed a way for­ward.

Released on a pay-what-you-want mod­el, with a “dig­i­tal tip jar,” the release was met with bemuse­ment and con­tempt. (The Man­ic Street Preacher’s Nicky Wire wrote that it “demeans music.”)  Two years lat­er, the jury was still out on the “Radio­head exper­i­ment.”

Yet it wouldn’t be long before both musi­cians and small labels start­ed sell­ing music through Band­camp, which debuted in 2008 with a sim­i­lar busi­ness mod­el, com­bat­ing pira­cy with a kind of online hon­or sys­tem that lets fans deter­mine their own slid­ing scale. (The “dig­i­tal tip jar” has become a stan­dard fea­ture of all online pro­mo­tion.)

Radiohead’s release strate­gies have allowed them to keep sur­pris­ing fans with rar­i­ties, like the sin­gle “Ill Wind” at the top, and Scotch Mist, a 2007 film in which they played songs from In Rain­bows for a New Year’s Eve web­cast (see “Weird Fishes/Arpeggio” fur­ther up). All of these are free to stream, in addi­tion to their nine stu­dio albums and re-releas­es like OKNOTOK, a remas­tered OK Com­put­er.

They may be fol­low­ing indus­try trends this time, espe­cial­ly the Bill­board move to include YouTube video plays in its offi­cial rank­ings. But in its scope, this offer­ing is unique­ly gen­er­ous, and allows a gen­er­a­tion too young to remem­ber “Creep,” Win­dows 95, and the shock gen­er­at­ed by Kid A to dis­cov­er the band’s evo­lu­tion and take it in even more rad­i­cal direc­tions.

via Con­se­quence of Sound

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Radio­head Releas­es 18 Hours of Demos from OK Com­put­er for a Lim­it­ed Time–After Hack­ers Try to Hold Them for Ran­som

The Secret Rhythm Behind Radiohead’s “Video­tape” Now Final­ly Revealed

The 10 Most Depress­ing Radio­head Songs Accord­ing to Data Sci­ence: Hear the Songs That Ranked High­est in a Researcher’s “Gloom Index”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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