Dollars & Cents

I’m a huge Radiohead fan, but I don’t follow the various Web sites that offer daily news about the band, so I did not know until yesterday that early mixes of the band’s forthcoming album, Hail to the Thief, are supposedly “widely available” online.

I tried grabbing the tracks in various ways. Most of the popular P2P networks are most easily accessible via Windows, which I do not run at home, so I gave it a shot at work. LimeWire, the only Gnutella client I still trust (BearShare being chock full o’ spyware and adware and other nastiness), couldn’t hook me up. eDonkey also failed spectacularly. In both cases, I could see the files I wanted, but I could not download them due to network congestion, latency, and what-have-you. Kazaa got me pulling down data, but the mp3 tracks turned out to be minutes and minutes of silence. (Not sure what the story is there, but my assumption is that these files are decoys fed to the network by the band’s label.)

Two big ideas here: (1) I cannot for the life of me figure out why the music industry is so up-in-arms about P2P given that it is so amazingly bad at putting you in touch with what you want. P2P is barely-organized chaos that requires a lot of work on the part of the end-user. It is not friendly technology at all. This is the kind of crap that only college students have time for. (2) Radiohead’s two previous albums were also available online weeks before they were released. (I was enjoying Amnesiac for more than a month before it hit stores, at which point I bought a copy.) Did this hurt sales? According to this article chronicling the latest leaked tracks, Kid A and Amnesiac debuted at #1 and #2 on the Billboard 200. So … what’s the problem?

(I was eventually directed by a fellow fan to a Web page where the tracks remain available … for now.)