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Sunday 26 March 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Dave Martin
# burn the witch
Radiohead are cleverly teasing everyone with their new album release
What do you make of it all?

ON 1 MAY, British band Radiohead took some inspiration from one of their own tracks and showed us how to disappear completely.

They deleted their internet presence – Facebook, Twitter, even the content on their website - prompting, as expected, massive speculation.

Were they breaking up? Were they really sticking it to the internet (frontman Thom Yorke having never held back on his opinions in the past – he once called Spotify ‘the last fart from a dying corpse’?) Or were they getting ready to release a new album?

The day before Radiohead went silent online, they sent this postcard:

Two days later, things are a bit more concrete. It looks like we do have a new album coming very soon, and it is possibly called Burn the Witch (the same name as a Radiohead song that first started making the rounds in the early 2000s, but has never made it onto an album or into a live set).

The media silence was broken earlier today, when an Instagram video appeared:

Just a few hours later, it was followed by this:

This afternoon, the band released this full song which seems to confirm the record will be called Burn the Witch.

Radiohead / YouTube

It’s still not clear yet if Radiohead will try a new way of releasing it.

Like their previous two albums, they recently set up two new companies: Dawn Chorus LLP and Dawnchoruss Ltd. They’ve also got their long-time collaborator, artist Stanley Donwood on board (that’s his work on the Burn the Witch flyer above).

Spotify criticism

The band are known for doing their own thing when it comes to releasing music, and also to being openly critical of some of the major changes in the record industry.

They promoted their album Kid A by using ‘iBlips’, which allowed people to preorder and listen to the album. And stream the record they did, by hundreds of thousands.

Then with In Rainbows in 2007, they took a pay-what-you-want approach, where buyers could pay as little or as much as they wanted. The record was also made available in physical format, to ensure it charted.

Thom has always been clear about the fact he knows he’s part of a money-making industry. He told The Guardian in 2000:

I wouldn’t be involved in it if I wasn’t aware that it was going to be a product. I always wanted whatever I did to end up in the high street, no matter what it was, because to me, there isn’t anywhere else to go. It is art, but then, it’s not. It’s music!

At the same time, he doesn’t want to be taken advantage of.

“To me this isn’t the mainstream, this is is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse,” he said of Spotify during an interview with Mexican website Sopitas in 2013.

He wants the connection between band and fan to remain as pure as possible – and not have sites like Spotify act as ‘gatekeepers’. (He removed his Atoms for Peace records from Spotify, but they later turned up on Apple Music).

“We can build shit ourselves, so fuck off,” he said to streaming sites in that same interview.

Spotify pays artists between $0.006 and $0.0084 per play, so unless you’re a big hitter you’re not going to keep your career afloat on Spotify streams. The money, too, is divvied out among the music’s rights holders, which can include its label and publishers, so artists might not get a particularly big percentage.

The trend for bigger artists of late has been to ‘drop’, ie release, an album with no fuss or fanfare (like the latest Beyoncé record). With this new release, Radiohead are teasing us, giving us little morsels to keep us hungry for the big reveal.

Fans are salivating over what to expect, and this sense of anticipation will undoubtedly drive people towards picking up the physical record. It remains to be seen where, or if, the record will be available to stream. We also don’t know if there will be a new pay model, or if Radiohead will surprise us all and go back to the traditional way of payment.

For now, all eyes remain on those Instagram, Twitter and YouTube pages.

What do you make of it all? Tell us in the comments below.

Read: Radiohead ramp up speculation after deleting their internet presence>

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