EMI: Radiohead Demanded £10 Million Payday At The End Of Its Rainbow

Dec 28th, 2007 // 13 Comments

frostedluckyyork.pngRadiohead’s former label, EMI, has taken to the business pages of the London Times to strike back at its former art-rock poster children, saying that Thom Yorke and his merry band of thieves walked after demanding a deal that would have cost EMI more than £10 million, a figure which includes an advance, £3 million of “international marketing” for In Rainbows, and the copyrights for their back catalog:

The massive demand is far greater than had been thought. The critically acclaimed band had been offered a £3 million advance by Mr Hands for their latest album, but wanted more.

An EMI spokesman said last night: “Radiohead were demanding an extraordinary amount of money and we did not believe that our other artists should have to subsidise their gains.”

The band’s management hit back, saying that it believed that more high-profile artists could abandon EMI. It accused Mr Hands of not negotiating seriously.

Radiohead wanted EMI to hand over at least some of the copyrights to their catalogue of albums such as OK Computer, a demand that would have devalued EMI’s recorded music catalogue and cost the British music major millions in future earnings.

Giving Radiohead the rights to their last two albums would have presented EMI with a £4 million loss. It is believed that the band was also seeking a guaranteed £3 million EMI budget on international marketing for the new album, although their management does not accept this figure.

Well, of course they’re going to dispute those claims–didn’t the “international marketing” for In Rainbows wind up being pretty low-cost? Some wheatpasted posters here, some T-shirts there, some low-cost video ads that got picked up by bloggers far and wide. Oh yeah, and all that free publicity garnered by the “pay what you like we’re smashing the record industry, hahaha just kidding please buy the discbox or the plain old CD, kthxbye!” stunt. That didn’t really cost much, though, right? I mean, the way that first webcast kept crapping out, you’d think that they went really really deep discount on their Webhosting plan.

EMI accuses Radiohead after group’s demands for more fell on deaf ears [Times Online]


  1. mike a

    Hard to feel that sorry for EMI. They seem to be taking the argument of “look at your self-righteous saviors, people of Earth – they were only after the money all along!” But Radiohead never claimed to be Fugazi, did they?

  2. Dickdogfood

    It’s magically suspicious!

    God, I need a drink.

  3. Ned Raggett

    Clearly they should have just talked to Mr. Garrison directly.

  4. Juancho

    The back-catalog demand is the real kicker. Does someone in Radiohead have a business degree or what?

  5. Ned Raggett

    It’s at times like this you realize that everyone ultimately wants to be David Bowie, ie able to say “Back catalog that sells forever in some way/shape/form and I own all of it except for some early singles and my debut album — no, can’t complain.”

  6. mike a

    Ned: totally. And eternal, unquestionable credibility even if your later albums suck (also see: Lou Reed, Iggy Pop).

  7. mike a

    (not that I’m saying Radiohead’s recent albums are of a lower caliber – they’ve bounced back admirably from HTTT. just saying that they could release nothing but shite from here on out and still retain their cred)

  8. okiedoke

    Mr. Hands meant to say that he didn’t expect EMI’s shareholders to subsidize the proposed deal. Artists, of course, are expected as always to subsidize anything we might dream up. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

    Is that Guy Hands in our pocket? (Will always sound like a Lake Woebegone name to me!)

  9. Al Shipley

    I’m guessing Radiohead were ready to leave the label all along, and just tried to play hardball with EMI for one last round of negotiations before making the final decision to go independent, and I don’t begrudge them that. But after that NYT article where Yorke spun all that bullshit about “Money makes you numb, as M.I.A. wrote,” as if they aren’t making lots and lots of money off of In Rainbows, this really makes them look even more pompous than usual.

  10. Chris Molanphy

    @GovernmentNames: Agreed on the Hail Mary negotiation. Clearly Yorke & co. were only half-serious.

    I’m actually going to back EMI, a little, on this one — and I speak as someone who loves In Rainbows, put it in my Top Five for the year, etc.

    The reason a label like EMI caves into the re-upping demands of a midcareer act like Radiohead who are critically acclaimed and sell pretty well but, frankly, aren’t Celine Dion in the global sales dept., is cred. And it almost never works.

    The signal example is R.E.M. in 1995. They re-signed to Warners at the height of Monster to a ~$80m deal even the company itself knew would never pay off — but all the stories in Billboard at the time had Warner insiders saying, We needed to keep them to show other acts we’re committed to our artists. I.e., a moral victory. But if Warners was expecting a loss leader they could be proud of, they got more (or less) than they bargained for from Stipe & co.: first album under the new pact was the very respectable but piss-poor-selling New Adventures in Hi-Fi; and everything after the post-Bill Berry era sold ever-worse. True, the deal probably didn’t cost Warners $80m in the end (that figure was likely premised on certain sales targets), but it accomplished next to nothing, either commercially or in terms of perception of the company: just six years later, Wilco was wrestling to get off Warners for shitting on their most acclaimed album (and then re-signing to a Warner subsidiary, but nevermind).

    Bottom line, even in flusher times, signing Radiohead as loss-leaders, with (let’s face it) most of their best work probably behind them, wouldn’t have made much sense. In the current environment, it was likely totally untenable.

  11. loudersoft

    Actually, the reason for the resigning of R.E.M. was sales of Automatic For The People, not Monster and, at the time, Warners expected a recoupment based on their track record of previous sales. They negotiated similarly with Prince, and both negotiations, which favored the artist, failed in terms of actual recoupment.

    Radiohead aren’t a bunch of nonces who just woke up on this side of the tea kettle. They’re just still living, perhaps due to the nature of believing one’s own press, in a time when these kinds of deals still take place. That’s unfortunate for everyone. I don’t feel sorry one bit for EMI, but their mutual inflexibiity on bargaining this out has to weigh heavy somewhere.

  12. Covebum

    Let’s face it, Hands’ private equity firm Terra Firma is there to slash costs and their artist roster while bleeding the catalogue dry (see their misguided Radiohead box set). He has lashed out in the press in recent months regarding large advances, saying established acts face being cut if they don’t share his vision for “working with their label.” 360 deals and control over every penny are what he is after. Considering the billions he owes Citigroup from this deal, I don’t fault him for trying to right a sinking ship. Doing it in the media seems questionable, but all those London broadsheets do love a juicy dustup. It’s a big gamble, though, as all his most profitable artists might jump ship in the meantime. Repackaging all their hits as they watch from afar will suit Hands just fine I’m sure.

    As for Radiohead, I am getting a real kick out of the backlash. The same bloggers who breathlessly invented the “smashing the industry” angle to suit their Net as center-of-the-universe world view are now bitching about the band releasing the music through traditional channels as though it is a sneaky betrayal. Whatever keeps the snark train running full steam ahead, I suppose.

  13. Anonymous

    This kind of behavior from artists is not unusual. It reminds me of a time in LV Beethoven’s life, when he was trying to maximize the profit of his MISSA SOLEMNIS. He actually sold the work to multiple publishers, and eventually got caught. No matter how much people complain, in the end you have to make a living. And I am sure the Radiohead members have grown accustomed to a fairly affluent standard of living, so you can’t blame them for asking (if they did, Thom says they didn’t).

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