Before there was Radiohead…

Though it’s been pointed out that they are not doing something new, they’re just the biggest band to do it yet, Radiohead are still getting all the free press one could ever want with their take-it-for-free-if-you-want-it album release strategy.

I say, it’s always good to remember history, especially given the tendency to think that The Internet Changes Everything (TM). With that in mind, I present Lustfaust, a late-70s experimental (West) Berlin band, who, 30 years ago, placed ads in mainstream music magazines that said:

Send a blank tape & postage and we’ll give you album free. Construct your own cover.

On the site where they’ve collected these ads, they write:

Lustfaust relied on maintaining a dialogue with their fans. Print was an important part of this process with both Falke Tranen and the music press being tools used to enable their pioneering of the tape trading networks.

What? Giving music away to fans for free, telling them to share it, and encouraging user generated content wasn’t invented yesterday? Who knew!

Comments (2) to “Before there was Radiohead…”

  1. Hi Nancy:

    I had seen an interesting article in this morning’s NYT about this (belatedly) and was going to forward it to you…but your blog was already on top of it.


  2. Radiohead’s not giving it away for free, are they? I thought it was just pay-what-you-want?

    The one thing that is different and novel about this is that it’s a very well known, mainstream artist doing it. Jane Sibbery did the same thing already, but she’s not a “hot property” in the music biz like Radiohead is.

    The “tape trading phenom” -between artists and fans, DJs and DJs, and fans and fans – has certainly been retrieved (and accelerated) via the web. It is one of those collective actions that does pose a challenge to entities that sell music in the ways we in the West are accustomed.

    Have you seen the film Good Copy, Bad Copy? I find that it very eloquently defends sampling and the trading of musical recordings in a global context (e.g., in places like Brazil where the street – and not the internet – is the primary site of distribution, street sellers and musicians alike have very different norms/values when it comes to music and money). A great discussion piece for uni courses that touch on this subject, to be sure…