Maynard James Keenan, out of Tool, isn't entirely convinced by the In Rainbows experiment:
"I love RADIOHEAD. They're a great band, but I do think — and I'll go on record now as saying I'll probably be wrong and time will tell — what they did is a one-trick pony in a way, 'cause it might work for a publicity thing to allow people to download it, but it's very comfortable for them to be able to do that. They're going to make lots of money touring and they've already made lots of money selling records."
Well, yes. That's not so much commentary as observation, and there's a key difference between the two.
Nobody, surely, would think that because Radiohead made a couple of million off the pay-what-you-feel-it's-worth model that a new band from Cheltenham would be able to sell their debut record for the same sort of cash - but then, they wouldn't make as much from a traditional release as Radiohead could have done. It's more than possible that a tipping-system based on artists retaining ownership of the music could mean most acts make more money from their music than if they'd signed to a major and had to work to pay back the advances. Indeed, it's more than possible that this sort of system would prove more lucrative for the vast majority of bands - the ones who never bother the Top 40 - than they'd make under the traditional system.
But then Keenan doesn't have a very positive view of musicians generally: he effectively suggests they're basically so stupid they should all be made wards of court - or at least of the RIAA:
"One thing that I see the musicians wanting is more independence and, you know, more control over their destiny," he said. "The one downside to it is that for the most part, the reason they make music is because they're damaged goods and they're generally not that bright when it comes to making business decisions. So eventually the vampires that survive the aftermath of the industry collapse will figure out a way to get their fingers back into these guys."
We think the phrase here is "speak for yourself".
Keenan then demonstrates some of this "damaged thought" by parroting the old "if you make some records available for free, then nobody will ever get paid" line that even the RIAA companies have started to move away from:
The people it will affect are those in-between bands that all of a sudden got a catchy song and people start passing it around for free. Well, if the people that got it would actually have paid for (it), these guys may have been able to afford another record 'cause guess what, there are no more labels."
But this misses the point that the Radiohead album wasn't given away for free; it was a purchase for a fair price deal which pulled in hundreds of thousands of pounds.
It's interesting that the sort of acts who are quick to say "let's not rock the boat" as Radiohead try the experiment are the ones who have done very nicely indeed out of the status quo, like Lily Allen and Tool. Allen's career owes a lot to record industry nurturing and - for all the talk of her MySpace - a massive inpouring of marketing spend; Tool have sold a shedload of records for pretty much the same reason - there are hundreds of bands of similar levels of talent who didn't have the benefit of Sony BMG's Zoo records backing them. In a different system, everyone could have got their beaks a little wet. But Tool wouldn't have made so much. No wonder Maynard doesn't want a different system.