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Down With The Man | Part 6

How music got its groove back. Welcome to the Down With The Man issue: Part 6.


Lately, we’ve been focusing on the music industry a lot, what with all the massive tectonic shifts it’s undergoing. Artists big and small are sticking it to the Big Label Man, anyone from big-leaguers like Madonna and Radiohead to indie mavericks like Ghost Away and Jill Sobule.

The latest shaker: cult British 90’s trip-hop getup Portishead just released their first album in 11 years, Third, exclusively on on April 21, where it could be streamed for free until its official release today. (You may also recall our fervent raves about and our early predictions of its revolution potential.)


It’s the very first exclusive for the social networking music site. But even more interestingly, Portishead was also the very first artist to join’s catalog, with their track Cowboys as the first one to ever be played on when the site went live in 2002.

And here’s the fascinating thing: traditionally, the music industry has employed an event-based model with album launches, where the launch is heavily promoted and positioned as an object of anticipation by sending the album out to music critics and reviewers well in advance, building up solid media hype. Then, that the record label and retailer can monetize this by pricing the anticipated new release much higher than other stuff.

Recently, in an excellent piece for Wired, the Talking Heads’ David Byrne and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke tackled the current business model, probing the capacity for change. And we think this Portishead/ move is tell-tale sign of days to come, where artists use new media and the power of the social web to promote, publish and eventually distribute their work, creating a loop of self-sufficiency that not only puts the fans first, but also completely circumvents the red tape of the Big Labels model.

Published April 27, 2008




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