updated 04:40 pm EST, Thu December 20, 2007
Radiohead on EMI iTunes
One of the key reasons Radiohead has refrained from signing on to digital music is licensing rights, the band's lead singer Thom Yorke says in an interview with Wired. The musician observes that the group's previous, multi-album contract with music label EMI contained virtually no clauses for digital music rights as it was struck years before digital music stores were available. Radiohead's release of In Rainbows in October with flexible pricing was the first real opportunity the group had to earn money on a digital offering.
"In terms of digital income, we've made more money out of this record than out of all the other Radiohead albums put together, forever — in terms of anything on the Net. And that's nuts," Yorke says. "It's partly due to the fact that EMI wasn't giving us any money for digital sales. All the contracts signed in a certain era have none of that stuff."
The back catalog is also avaialble through the group's own website and also sells much of its back catalog through Amazon MP3, where the band's historical preference for selling its music only in a whole-album format has remained intact. In Rainbows will be available in a "traditional" physical CD format in the UK on December 31st and in North America in early January, the artist says, though online plans have not been announced.
A past report has suggested that Radiohead is becoming increasingly warm to offering music on iTunes but that either the artists or Apple will have to concede at least some of their past resistance to the other's approach to music to make a deal possible. Apple usually asks musicians to allow any average-length songs on multi-track albums to be sold individually as well as part of a larger title. Yorke does not hint at any talks with iTunes but warns any artists signing with a label to factor the store into their own contracts.
"First and foremost, you don't sign a huge record contract that strips you of all your digital rights, so that when you do sell something on iTunes you get absolutely zero," he tells new artists. "That would be the first priority. If you're an emerging artist, it must be frightening at the moment."