So Radiohead have done something quite different in releasing their latest album without a mainstream above-the-line ad campaign, and by distributing via their own website. Which they can do - because they are big already, right?
The new industry is preparing itself for any artist to do what Radiohead does. All the means to create, distribute and connect are available to anyone. The problem rests in our own belief as artists that it's not enough - that we need to rely on others to build our success for us.
Yes Radiohead have benefited from mainstream support. However, the last five years of their career has shown them breaking from the status quo to take more and more control of their work. Their confidence must stem from the fact that they are supported by a great community of fans that shows no sign of dissipating. A community that with which they have always had a relationship of mutual respect.
To demonstrate that this is happening across the industry, here are a few examples of individuals who are brave enough to step ahead, build their communities, and try out a different perspective:
The Swedish electropop queen has been making music since she was a teenager, but her biggest success did not happen until she packed in the major labels and went on her own. Her top album Robyn was released in 2005 on her own Konichiwa imprint, which she tirelessly promoted and used to build an international fan base - in fact it took several years for the record to stick in markets outside Sweden. She followed it up with a triple album - Body Talk - released across several months. Her strategy is to work hard, create, and give back to her fans. And it's paying off. Yes she has support from the big players now - but she's in control. Inspirational.
An artists' goal does not always have to be based around global stardom. Matthew Ker's debut album Body-Piano-Machine was released after his career as a producer took off via collaboration with French artist Camille. MaJiKer and I worked together with the aim of increasing his solo profile amongst key tastemakers in the industry. Since then he has played at London's iconic ICA, remixed Fever Ray, and earned the praise of Janice Long, Ken Russell and Nico Muhly. Tracks from new album The House of Bones was recently featured on David Byrne's podcast. Proof that targeting your PR pays off.
This electro pop robot boy has become an internet success story by using the free model to build his community. With over a million downloads of his debut album from his site, Simon has tapped in to social media to capture a fan base of tens of thousands via Twitter and Facebook. What happens next is up to him - but with that level of support he is certain to move forward confidently to the next stage of his career. His community will follow him and amplify his intention.
The maestro behind top pop blog Electroqueer continues to build his empire with devotion that shows no sign of letting up. Although not a musician, Raj and other bloggers like him who are serious about what they do embody the spirit of the new industry. They focus on their craft, remain independent, and create communities of support. And they innovate; Raj's EQ London live nights hold sought after slots for emerging acts keen to gain their own audience.
While none of these artists are yet at the stratosphere of Thom Yorke and friends, each are working within the very same playing field as Radiohead. In the new industry, the game is up to you. Take a chance, poke the box, and see what happens. The only thing stopping you is your belief that it can't be done. Artists now have the ability to take control of their own careers. It's liberating - and it works.
Radiohead image from Flickr by Ben Ward