I remember being 16 years old, sitting in front of my boombox, legs crossed, waiting for Paranoid Android to be played on the radio with a finger on the record button ready to tape the new Radiohead single. Today it’s a bit different, now I use the internet, making recording and accessing much easier.
Also not sure really where that boombox is anymore… When OK Computer was released I became a lifetime Radiohead fan and I’ve been fascinated with them since. The Bends is a great album, and we will never know why that guy is laying on the floor for the Just video (Send me your theories though!!!) but it was their 3rd album Ok Computer, that set them apart to me. With Ok Computer, Radiohead put out Paranoid Android, (a 6+ minute single) at a time when everyone was releasing short pop songs. They paired it with a cartoon music video starring a guy in a toque with an R on it (which I also sat in front of Much Music waiting to tape that with a VHS) and was placed on heavy rotation in the growing ADD world of MTV.
On May 8th 2016 – Radiohead removed themselves from the internet.
They pulled an internet cleanse.
It was wonderful to watch and also shocked my SEO mind (what about their indexed pages!!) They finally followed through with “how to disappear completely” by removing everything off their website. They purged their Twitter & Facebook of all posts & branding. YouTube + Google+ (yah, Google+) as well. They also sent out obscure physical letters that left their fans wondering, and a bit scared and its my favourite marketing move they’ve done yet.
They put out 6 studio albums with their record label and they ran that traditional model for years and gained a lot of popularity that way. They were selling out shows by their second album and by the time Ok Computer came out they were known world-wide so I think that afforded them access to run the marketing they now do. In Rainbows was the first album that went against the traditional model as they released it directly to their fans, online and on their own as their contact with their label was over. I paid $5.00 USD through their “pay what you want”, then bought the CD when it came out a few months later, and THEN even bought the vinyl as it came with extra pieces. From the success of In Rainbows, they continued with King of Limbs and again released the files directly to fans, completely on their own. This time you could package it with a limited edition vinyl that came with a newspaper – I bought it immediately. Their physical CD release did make many top 10 charts (as “charts” were still looked at) but the vinyl was the surprising part, it was named best-selling vinyl of that year. Then last weekend they released their 9th studio album – A Moon Shaped Pool, again online. This time though with a label XL who Radiohead seem to have found some give/take with. There are 2 songs on Spotify, which Radiohead has been strictly against for years. They also released the video for Burn the Witch and Daydreaming on Youtube, another service that they’ve had strong opinions on. Also they have put these on their website and have been promoting the new album on their freshly cleaned out social media accounts.
From deciding to make their tours as carbon-neutral as possible to Thom creating a “human sculpture of king canute” raise awareness about climate change, and many others including releasing their current album at a very interesting time in US politics which isn’t coincidence. Their strong opinions have shaped their career and more and more, the way they market themselves and I love and admire that about them I will continue to watch their marketing, and enjoy their music as they continue to market themselves in the constantly changing marketing waves.