Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lest we forget (or buried news, perhaps)

With all the hype surrounding Radiohead's direct-to-the-fans approach to releasing their new album, In Rainbows (which is a great album by the way, if you like Radiohead and think their last two albums were great), I was reminded of a news bit by Troy Carpenter that appeared in Billboard back in January of 2005:

At this late juncture, most artists have an idea how they're going to deal with digital distribution and the perceived threat of peer-to-peer file-trading. Something going on at Juliana Hatfield's official Web site to this end demands the attention of the curious.

Hatfield, whose last release was the 2004 album "In Exile Deo" (Rounder), has been posting unreleased tracks at her Web site since early December, offering MP3s for unlimited download, on the honor system. Remember the honor system?

Yes, next to each pair of tracks posted for download, Hatfield provides a link to Paypal, the popular online payment site, where a donation can be made to the artist. The iTunes-forged standard of a buck per song is suggested. Alternatively, downloaders are urged to send a dollar in the mail.

So far, the system seems to be working, as future postings have thanked listeners for their donations. So far, 14 Hatfield songs have been uploaded, essentially spanning her solo career, and to accompany the latest batch, the artist wrote a letter explaining the origins of each song so far posted.

Later that year, Juliana released Made In China on her own Ye Olde Records label, with the help of the funds raised from her experiment.

Though Juliana, whose "My Sister" and "Spin The Bottle" were radio hits around the same time that Radiohead made themselves known with "Creep," didn't maintain the kind of massive momentum that Radiohead did, she proved early on that there was still enough goodness and honesty in people to make some bread in the digital free-for-all environment that is wreaking havoc on major labels (it's their own fault!). And it looks like what Juliana called the "honor system" has apparently worked tremendously in Radiohead's favor this time around, according to early speculation.

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