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Radiohead revolutionizes music

In entertainment, there is one quality everything from celebrity pregnancies to drug arrests (minus those involving Charlie Sheen) have in common.

Surprise.

Sometimes, though, in entertainment, the surprise is a much more welcome one – an actor that turns out to be better than expected, a CD that’s mind-blowingly good. But as of late, there has been one musical surprise dominating the Internet – Radiohead.

On Valentine’s Day, the band announced via Twitter their album would be released digitally Saturday, then shocked fans by offering it on their website a day earlier. The physical CD, complete with elaborate packaging and vinyl discs, will be released March 28.

This isn’t the first time Radiohead has gone viral for a release.  “In Rainbows” hit the Internet in 2007 and let fans choose what they wanted to pay. Those wishing for a price discount this time around, though, are out of luck but have two different choices – $9 for MP3 format and $14 for WAV.

Unexpected events in music have been around for a while, with secret shows and impromptu single releases, but Radiohead has begun to revolutionize the way music is distributed in a mainstream way. Even if you don’t like their music, hearing about the band is nearly inescapable, and that inescapability is an easy way to draw in new customers, ones simply fascinated by what’s being thrown at them.

It’s not just the album’s release that took over the Internet; the video for “Lotus Flower,” specifically the interest in frontman Thom Yorke’s dance moves, enamored those craving a new Internet meme. Though long gone are the days that *NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” held the top spot on “TRL” for weeks at a time, music videos still have a strong presence in the world through YouTube and Radiohead capitalized on this.

Again, it is nothing new, but for such a non-mainstream band to captivate the world the way it does makes a strong and intriguing point.

While social media’s hand in music goes as deep as MySpace, Twitter has changed the way artists interact with their fans, and Radiohead is fully embracing it.

Smaller bands have tried to replicate Radiohead’s innovative marketing techniques but for the most part, Radiohead is certainly the most popular to try it.
While the name your own price gimmick didn’t stick, the idea of a social media takeover certainly could. Such a popular band releasing a digital-only copy, with two different file formats no less, is a game-changing technique.

While other more mainstream acts will offer free single downloads on their sites, artists such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Bruno Mars haven’t attempted such a move. As an idea for the future of music, it is a fascinating one, and as CDs have stayed on life support longer than many have expected, a big push like this could be the final one.

Until others do embrace the surprise social media blasting and early digital release idea, Radiohead will continue to stay ahead of the game. Though predicting its next move is a risky one, it is almost guaranteed to be a game changer.

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