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Radioheadache Riposte: Hallelujah the Hills' Ryan Walsh weighs in

OTD's kneejerk rant backlashing the OMG-Free-Radiohead meme began life as an offhanded email to Hallelujuah the Hills frontman Ryan Walsh, who in turn sent us a such a thoughtful response that we asked him to elaborate a formal reply. And even though he's snaking us by leaking the new HTH mp3s to other blogs, we're running his words below. No hard feelings. For the record: as members of the press we have only ever leaked one record to Oink. And it was Hallelujah the Hills. (Sorry, man, we really needed the ratio boost.)
I've been fascinated by the reactions I've encountered in the two days since Radiohead fired "the shot heard all around the recording industry." Specifically, I've been interested in how people have been able to choose their own headline and inadvertently reveal what they find most important about the news: "Radiohead give album away for free!", "Radiohead eschew record companies altogether!", and of course "Radiohead attempt to rip fans off with new eighty dollar album."  Amazing, it's like the news is so overwhelming no one can process it calmly yet. A completely unheralded bombshell rarely occurs these days (there are few opportunities for cultural surprises in the digital age, i.e. we know the moment a film is being made right down to who the dolly grip is before the screenplay is even finished) and so I've been relishing in this while I can. Today I feel like it's a good idea to take a look at it with the big picture in mind.
 
If bands can surprise the public with an album out of the blue, have it available a few days later (no chance for a leak that way), and have a price tag that's completely up to fans I think a lot of people WILL gladly pay for the album download (I've heard that ordering site could barely handle the traffic on Monday).  If you dismantle the early-leak-listener-club you put all fans on the same even playing field and everyone has a chance to hear it at the same time. And if the money goes directly to the band you destroy the "the band doesn't see that money anyway" downloader argument, which leads you to end up with, miraculously, a healthy relationship (both monetary and artistic) between artist and band. \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>What I'm most excited about though is fan bases discovering an album all together at the same time again.   That strengthens music fanatic communuties immensely.  Whether you consider this a collective conscious phenomenon or good old gang mentality nothing beats experiencing a musical event with a shitload of like minded people.  \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>In recent years it has become the norm that an album gets discovered by fans in the following order:  \u003cstrong\>1\u003c/strong\>) The press are issued their copies of the\n album.  They begin to form opinions but can't talk about them online yet.  One of them, however, is bold enough to leak it online.  "Fuck it," he or she says to themselves, "I don't care if I get fired.  I'm going to be a hero on Oink." This leads to \u003cstrong\>2)\u003c/strong\> The computer savy early-leak-listener-club all breaking their wrists to either dismiss or praise the album first on their message board of choice.\u003cstrong\> 3)\u003c/strong\> The die-hard-fans who swear off early leak listening finally hear it the day it comes out in stores.  A new wave of discussion and evaluation rolls in.  The reviews come out.  \u003cstrong\>4)\u003c/strong\> New fans or casual fans find the album eventually also and chime in as well.  Now, that's dividing up a fan base's initial new album experience into four segments over at least six months of time.  Imagine combining all four segments within a the span of three\n weeks.  Which scenario do you think is more likely to cause cultural explosions?  Which scenario do you think will create a more lively, unified fan base?  And what sounds like more fun to you?\u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>Now what about that hard copy of the album that costs more than it does to fill up my band's tour van (not by much but still)?  I think it's a smart move.  It's a little extreme but I believe they'e loaded it up to the brim with goodies and charged a hefty amount to make a specific point.  I believe that point is this: ",1] ); //-->
 
What I'm most excited about though is fan bases discovering an album all together at the same time again. That strengthens music fanatic communuties immensely.  Whether you consider this a collective conscious phenomenon or good old gang mentality nothing beats experiencing a musical event with a shitload of like minded people. 
 
In recent years it has become the norm that an album gets discovered by fans in the following order:  1) The press are issued their copies of the album. They begin to form opinions but can't talk about them online yet. One of them, however, is bold enough to leak it online. "Fuck it," he or she says to themselves, "I don't care if I get fired. I'm going to be a hero on Oink." This leads to 2) The computer savy early-leak-listener-club all breaking their wrists to either dismiss or praise the album first on their message board of choice. 3) The die-hard-fans who swear off early leak listening finally hear it the day it comes out in stores. A new wave of discussion and evaluation rolls in. The reviews come out. 4) New fans or casual fans find the album eventually also and chime in as well. Now, that's dividing up a fan base's initial new album experience into four segments over at least six months of time. Imagine combining all four segments within a the span of three weeks. Which scenario do you think is more likely to cause cultural explosions? Which scenario do you think will create a more lively, unified fan base? And what sounds like more fun to you?
 
Now what about that hard copy of the album that costs more than it does to fill up my band's tour van (not by much but still)? I think it's a smart move. It's a little extreme but I believe they'e loaded it up to the brim with goodies and charged a hefty amount to make a specific point. I believe that point is this: A certain shrinking segment of music fans still very much enjoy owning the album as an actual artifact.  If you want to continue to have the option of holding the album in your hands (staring at the art as you listen, rolling joints on the cover, whatever, it's your copy) you're going to have to be willing to pay more money for it.   \u003cu\>Less\u003c/u\>\n people will now pay \u003cu\>more\u003c/u\> money to own \u003cu\>nicer\u003c/u\>, highly fetishized packaging for the albums they own.\u003c/em\>  I'm ok with that.  It's better than the art and packaging disappear all together equation!  In fact, I'm still pissed that David Byrne \u003ca href\u003d\"http://journal.davidbyrne.com/2006/05/51406_packaging.html\" rel\u003d\"nofollow\" target\u003d\"_blank\" onclick\u003d\"return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)\"\>\u003cspan\>\u003cfont color\u003d\"#003399\"\>declared that packaging would soon die\u003c/font\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/a\> all together and he was fine with that.  Dude! Don't make me take that More Songs About Buildings And Food vinyl cover out of its frame on my wall!  \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>Now what about the fact that this, apparently, isn't coming out a record label?  Well, it's pretty damn interesting but I can't help but think it's a little bit like your rich friend being able to fly his private jet around instead of scoring a ticket on Delta or \u003cspan style\u003d\"border-bottom:#0066cc 1px dashed\"\>American Airlines\u003c/span\>.  It's fine for him but what about the rest of us poor kids?  Labels are still very, very helpful and often essential for most bands who can't release a random assortment of bleeps and bloops and have critics call it a masterpiece of songwriting craft (I kid, I kid. I joke because I'm jealous).  I can personally speak of the very, very positive effects of being on a \u003ca href\u003d\"http://misrarecords.com/\" rel\u003d\"nofollow\" target\u003d\"_blank\" onclick\u003d\"return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)\"\>\u003cspan\>\u003cfont color\u003d\"#003399\"\>kick ass indie label\u003c/font\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/a\> during the last year of my \u003ca href\u003d\"http://hallelujahthehills.com/\" rel\u003d\"nofollow\" target\u003d\"_blank\" onclick\u003d\"return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)\"\>",1] ); //--> A certain shrinking segment of music fans still very much enjoy owning the album as an actual artifact. If you want to continue to have the option of holding the album in your hands (staring at the art as you listen, rolling joints on the cover, whatever, it's your copy) you're going to have to be willing to pay more money for it. Less people will now pay more money to own nicer, highly fetishized packaging for the albums they own. I'm ok with that. It's better than the art and packaging disappear all together equation! In fact, I'm still pissed that David Byrne declared that packaging would soon die all together and he was fine with that. Dude! Don't make me take that More Songs About Buildings And Food vinyl cover out of its frame on my wall! 
 
Now what about the fact that this, apparently, isn't coming out a record label? Well, it's pretty damn interesting but I can't help but think it's a little bit like your rich friend being able to fly his private jet around instead of scoring a ticket on Delta or American Airlines. It's fine for him but what about the rest of us poor kids? Labels are still very, very helpful and often essential for most bands who can't release a random assortment of bleeps and bloops and have critics call it a masterpiece of songwriting craft (I kid, I kid. I joke because I'm jealous). I can personally speak of the very, very positive effects of being on a kick ass indie label during the last year of my \u003cfont color\u003d\"#003399\"\>band's\u003c/font\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/a\> existence.  \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>But you can't help but think that \u003cspan style\u003d\"border-bottom:#0066cc 1px dashed\"\>Radiohead\u003c/span\>'s presentation of\n this new business model will eventually filter down to the little fish too.  It would be foolish to start guessing exactly how that will work just yet.  But recall what Anton Newcombe said in the movie Dig!: "Until they can write the letter I'm writing they are the postman and I am the letter writer."  He was using the postman as a metaphor for what he believed record companies essentially do but, here, ironically, Radhiohead is releasing this album merely with help from the post office itself.  No metaphor required.  Wow.  Here we go.\u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>Ryan Walsh\u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>October 2nd 2007\u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\>[p.s. We'll be on \u003ca href\u003d\"http://hallelujahthehills.com/shows.html\" rel\u003d\"nofollow\" target\u003d\"_blank\" onclick\u003d\"return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)\"\>\u003cspan\>\u003cfont color\u003d\"#003399\"\>tour\u003c/font\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/a\> when the album is released online on October 10th.  Please show up to one of our shows with a cd-burn so we can hear it.  We put\n some money in the \u003cspan style\u003d\"border-bottom:#0066cc 1px dashed\"\>Radiohead\u003c/span\> online tip jar already!  We swear! ]\u003c/div\> \u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cbr\>\u003cbr\>\u003cbr\>\u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cp\> \n \u003chr size\u003d\"1\"\>\u003ca href\u003d\"http://us.rd.yahoo.com/evt\u003d48250/*http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/arp/sponsoredsearch_v9.php?o\u003dUS2226&cmp\u003dYahoo&ctv\u003dAprNI&s\u003dY&s2\u003dEM&b\u003d50\" target\u003d\"_blank\" onclick\u003d\"return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)\"\>Pinpoint customers \u003c/a\>who are looking for what you sell. \n\n\u003c/p\>",0] ); //--> band's existence. 
 
But you can't help but think that Radiohead's presentation of this new business model will eventually filter down to the little fish too. It would be foolish to start guessing exactly how that will work just yet. But recall what Anton Newcombe said in the movie Dig!: "Until they can write the letter I'm writing they are the postman and I am the letter writer." He was using the postman as a metaphor for what he believed record companies essentially do but, here, ironically, Radhiohead is releasing this album merely with help from the post office itself. No metaphor required. Wow. Here we go.
 
Ryan Walsh
October 2nd 2007
 
p.s. We'll be on tour when In Rainbows is released online on October 10th. Please show up to one of our shows with a cd-burn so we can hear it. We put some money in the Radiohead online tip jar already! We swear!
 
Hallelujah the Hills tour dates:

Oct 9 2007 8:00P
 World Grotto Knoxville, Tennessee

Oct 10 2007 8:00P
 The Caledonia Lounge Athens, Georgia

Oct 11 2007 8:00P
 The Reservoir Carrboro, North Carolina

Oct 12 2007 8:00P
 The Red & Black -- DAM!Festival Distric Of Columbia, Washington DC

Oct 13 2007 8:00P
 3rd Floor Studio Fredericksburg, Virginia

Oct 14 2007 8:00P
 Galaxy Hut Arlington, Virginia

Oct 17 2007 8:00P
 Cafe Nine New Haven, Connecticut

Oct 18 2007 8:00P
 Arlene’s Grocery - Misra/AbsolutelyKosher CMJ Showcase New York, New York

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