Introducing The Radiohead Public Library: Radiohead Makes Their Full Catalogue Available via a Free Online Web Site

Radio­head remained rel­e­vant longer than any of their peers not only because they adapt­ed to tech­no­log­i­cal change but because they’ve just as often been a force behind it, whether musi­cal­ly or oth­er­wise. Yet when it comes to their release strate­gies, we might call them increas­ing­ly conservative–they have embraced one of the old­est tra­di­tion­al fea­tures of the inter­net: the abil­i­ty to give away free con­tent to huge num­bers of peo­ple all at once, and to archive that con­tent in freely acces­si­ble repos­i­to­ries.

At least since In Rain­bows, Radio­head has seen the inter­net as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to give away their work or sell it at a low-cost slid­ing scale, often with prof­its ben­e­fit­ting char­i­ties. Last year, when hack­ers stole demos from 1997’s OK Com­put­er, Radio­head coun­tered by releas­ing 18 hours of the mate­r­i­al free to stream or buy for a lim­it­ed time, with all pro­ceeds going to cli­mate action. Then they released every sin­gle stu­dio album, includ­ing dozens of rar­i­ties, live ses­sions, and more, on YouTube, mak­ing every­thing free to stream for any­one with the band­width.

Now, con­cerned with the integri­ty of Radio­head col­lec­tions online, they’ve gone full Inter­net Archive and start­ed a “pub­lic library” (com­plete with a print­able library card). And for any fan of the band—from the most casu­al to the most ter­mi­nal­ly dedicated—it’s an expe­ri­ence. “The band has brought near­ly the entire­ty of their cat­a­log to one place,” writes Rob Arcand at Spin, “which doesn’t con­tain ads and doesn’t use algo­rithms or obtru­sive design ges­tures that could encour­age myopic lis­ten­ing.” Dive in and you nev­er know what you’ll find.

I stum­bled upon OK Com­put­er’s “Para­noid Android” and was remind­ed of how inex­plic­a­bly weird the video is; crossed paths with 1992’s Drill, the band’s sur­pris­ing pow­er-pop-punk first EP (hear “Think­ing About You” at the top); found a recent live per­for­mance of Thom Yorke, Jon­ny Green­wood, and a drum machine—the two demon­strat­ing with elec­tric gui­tars and voice why even the band’s most abstract and fore­bod­ing songs still have at their heart the del­i­cate melodies that made up the entire­ty of their aching­ly earnest sec­ond album, The Bends.

Oth­er rar­i­ties include the King of Limbs remix EP TKOL RMX 8 (“not to be con­fused with their King of Limbs remix album TKOL RMX 1234567”) and a 2005 track titled “I Want None of This” made for war relief com­pi­la­tion Help!: A Day in the Life. The “stress” here in this archive “is on ‘Pub­lic,’” notes Daniel Kreps at Rolling Stone. “The library is free to enter and audio and video files are acces­si­ble even to those with­out pre­mi­um stream­ing ser­vices.” Each mem­ber of the band served as a “librar­i­an” for the first week of the archive’s exis­tence, curat­ing their favorite selec­tions of mate­r­i­al for post­ing on social media from Jan­u­ary 20th to the 24th.

Check out the Radio­head Pub­lic Library here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

Clas­sic Radio­head Songs Re-Imag­ined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fic­tion Mag­a­zine & Oth­er Nos­tal­gic Arti­facts

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

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