So You Want To Wrangle Radiohead: A Guide To Rock N’ Roll’s Biggest Free Agents

Feb 13th, 2007 // 6 Comments

Yesterday, reported that the White Stripes were ready to sign a “long-term, multi-million dollar deal” with Warner Bros., effectively ending the band members’ brief stints as free agents (they were most recently on V2 Records, which divested itself last month). So now that Jack and Meg White have a new home, what on-the-market acts can expect to be courted in the upcoming months? After the click-through, our 100% speculative guide for wannabe label managers.

ARTIST Radiohead
STATUS Fulfilled its six-album EMI contract years ago; currently recording a new album without a deal.
PROS Critical darlings with a rabidly devotional fanbase.
CONS Can be a bit prickly, not to mention unpredictable: Sign them up for a multi-album deal, and they might just turn in two records’ worth of toaster-oven feedback and slide-whistle bloops.

STATUS Left label-less after the V2 meltdown.
PROS Omnipresent knob-twiddler may not be selling as many records as he did in his Play days, but he remains a music-licensing goldmine.
CONS Omnipresent; knob-twiddler.

ARTIST Coldplay
STATUS Two more albums left on the band’s Capitol deal, including this year’s Pull My Finger.
PROS Chris Martin’s songs fill radio playlists and big-seat stadiums around the world, and the band’s following includes everyone from alt-rock nerds to cool moms.
CONS They’ll make you rich, but you’ll spend half your time fetching nappies and lobbying for free-trade toilet paper.

ARTIST Michael Jackson
STATUS After a career on Epic, signed up with Bahrain-based indie Two Seas Records; deal didn’t take long to dissolve.
PROS Artists still love him: If the album goes as planned, expect plenty of big-name guest stars. Considering his track record, he could mount a comeback.
CONS Considering his track record, he could also mount a seven-year-old.

  1. Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue

    You know, you guys are really way too harsh on toaster-oven feedback and slide whistle bloops.

  2. xtianrut

    “he could also mount a seven-year-old”?!? I hate myself for loving that line.

  3. m-j

    What’s the current over/under on Thom and co. going label-less and distro’ing through iTunes or somesuch?

  4. sparkletone

    “What’s the current over/under on Thom and co. going label-less and distro’ing through iTunes or somesuch?”

    They’ve said a couple times that they’re wary about going purely digital because they feel there’s simply too many people that are excluded when you go that route.

    But basically, they’ve floated the idea a couple times as “something we’re thinking about maybe considering when we’ve finally got something worth releasing.”

    My guess is that they’ll do a just-for-this-album deal with a small-ish label like XL, or something, and retain most of their free agent status. If they do sign with a major, I bet they re-up with EMI because those guys are probably willing to do anything to get them back.

    But I currently think the one-shot-deal-with-a-smaller label, ala the Eraser deal with XL, is more likely.

  5. Mike Barthel

    Why would Warners sign the Stripes to a multi-year deal when Jack said he’s going to dissolve the band soon? Or at least that was the line he was peddling 2 years ago when he produced the Lynn album.

  6. Brian Raftery

    My feeling is that Yorke and co. are waiting to see what happens at EMI. As crazy as it sounds, they could re-up with the label in some configuration-especially if the staffers who have been with them since the Pablo era are still on board. I’m also not entirely sure digital distribution is quite where it needs to be to support a band with such geographically widespread fanbase.

    I also think they will be subjected to speculative missives like this one until they make a decision.

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