Radical Remix

Radiohead's new release is rebellious. Not the songs — the business model. It could make record companies and iTunes irrelevant


Releasing an album with a major record label is similar to giving birth. It usually takes nine months, and the pain can be unbearable. Even at its most efficient, the process requires the input and assent of retail conglomerates, lawyers, marketers, radio promoters and CD manufacturers. And if the project is a runaway success, it might bring in half the revenue it would have a few years ago.

The members of Radiohead—five prosperous, educated and reasonable men whose major-label contract with EMI expired in 2003—decided that the process could be streamlined. So last week guitarist...

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