Hail to the Brief: Radiohead to Possibly Release Only Singles. Others to Follow Suit?

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Talk to the hand, conventional album formats.
  • Talk to the hand, conventional album formats.

From The New York Times comes the announcement that fearless pioneers of future music Radiohead are rocking the boat once more. According to the Times, Thom Yorke's interview with The Believer (full interview only available through purchase) indicates that they'll no longer be recording LPs, instead focusing on the Modern Internet User's favorite bite-sized consumable: the single.

So, when Mr. Yorke announced a change of course for the band, saying it planned to stop making full-length records and turn its attention to singles, it sounded like an epitaph for the album, the broken backbone of the record industry's longtime business model.

"None of us wants to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again," Mr. Yorke told the Believer, a literary magazine based in San Francisco. "Not straight off. I mean, it's just become a real drag. It worked with 'In Rainbows' because we had a real fixed idea about where we were going. But we've all said that we can't possibly dive into that again. It'll kill us."

And no one wants a dead Radiohead on their hands. So now, not only do we have record labels offering glorified, intangible versions of enhanced CDs, we also have the biggest band in the world (debatably) swiftly abandoning the pay-what-you-feel In Rainbows model--a model that went over like gangbusters--for something even more risky but digitally promising.

We've seen locals try novel approaches to their digital/physical releases in recent months. How I Became the Bomb had their four-part series of digital EPs followed by a physical release. The Nobility's digital-only single was available in a slew of formats. Codaphonic's latest was released both physically (for a price) and digitally (for free) by YK Records. We know the modern consumer is getting lazier, cheaper, more willing to function in the moral gray area and more full of Cheetos. But can any of these approaches do the trick? Is this the death knell of the conventional album? Can bands (or listeners, for that matter) get by on just a steady stream of singles? Will your band sell any of said singles if you're not as in-demand as, you know, the biggest band in the world (debatably)?

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