Radiohead – How to transform a threat into a treat.

Everyone knows Radiohead, their influence on experimental rock has been felt since their debut and will always have some place in the genre. 1997’s OK computer was one of their earliest hits but after 22 years the album has suddenly burst back into relevance. Last week they were supposedly met with threats from a hacker that one of their minidisk collections had been stolen, and if the band didn’t pay up £120,000 then all the material would be leaked online. The band’s response wasn’t to cave into the threats; and if the tracks were going to be released anyway then some good might as well come from it.

Instead of giving some hacker the pleasure of exposing the samples, Radiohead decided they would be the ones to release them instead.

For just £18 you can buy 18 hours of various demos and concepts cut from the band’s mid to late 90s discography.  https://radiohead.bandcamp.com/

And all the money that they raise goes directly to Extinction Rebellion, an activist group committed to combatting climate change.

The demos themselves are quite interesting. If you’re an avid Radiohead fan, you’ll be able to find where each track belongs in their catalogue and even see early snippets that the band would revisit as far as 2007’s In Rainbows. There’s quiet a lot to wade through, but online communities have already started compiling the highlights (my favourite would be MD126, filled with the most complete versions of the OK Computer demos).

It’s basically by accident that this even happened. Had the unused demos not been resurfaced by the hacker then they may never have seen the light of day. It begs the questions of what else can be done with unused demos and the like. Extinction Rebellion is a fairly new group, but their agenda of anti-climate change is a prevalent topic that needs as much exposure as possible. I don’t know how much money they’ll raise through these demos, (probably not enough to break the bank) but I think the greater good comes from the headlines this generates. Had these demos been leaked then that’s all anyone would talk about but now the conversation is now at least partly focused on climate change, and what’s really great is that Radiohead were able to bring Extinction Rebellion this attention with minimal effort on their part.

Maybe they could release a demo like this every month and keep a steady stream of attention generation. It’s a win-win situation, fans get to discover the secrets and process of the band they love, and the band gets to do something good with files that would otherwise be hidden on a hard drive for all eternity. Now imagine if several major artists got on board. There are countless musicians who aren’t using their demos and countless fans eager to discover them, after the success of the Radiohead demo dump it might be worth more people following suit.

It’s a bit of pipe dream but I’d love to see more people get on board with it. With how easily sharable the Bandcamp links are it could easily catch on. It’s something cool to think about at least.