Considering that indie icons Arcade Fire walked away with the Album of the Year prize at Sunday night’s (February 13) 53rd Grammy Awards, perhaps the biggest news in the indie rock universe came from the United Kingdom. In the wee hours of Monday morning (February 14), Radiohead announced that not only was their new album completely done and would be called The King of Limbs, but it would also be available for a download this Saturday, February 19. The sudden announcement echoes the way Radiohead’s In Rainbows first got introduced to the universe back in 2007, when the band made the announcement that they were done with the album and then released it on the very same day (though this time around you’ll actually have to pay full price for the album, rather than pay what you want).
Radiohead’s latest album represents a continuing trend in the music world. In an age when early leaks can cost artists and labels a hefty sum, getting the music out there (and establishing the cost of it) as early as possible has been a boon to a number of bands over the past few years. Here are a few of the greatest (and most successful) experiments from the past few years.
Radiohead, In Rainbows
Back in the fall of 2007, rumors had circulated that Radiohead were in the studio and working on an album, though nobody knew when it would be finished or released. The Internet got its answer one morning when the band not only announced that In Rainbows was done but that it was also available immediately. Fans could pay whatever they felt like for a digital download of the album, with the option to order a deluxe edition for significantly more.
Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts I-IV
Once Trent Reznor liberated himself from his record label, he went on a crazy jag of creative output. First up was Ghosts I-IV, a series of instrumentals that he described as “soundtracks to daydreams.” A mysterious post went up on the Nine Inch Nails website that said “2 weeks!” and two weeks later Ghosts I-IV appeared as a free download (in an interesting twist, Reznor even made a free torrent available). Like Radiohead, more deluxe editions of the album were made available at greater price points, including a “Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition” that sold for $300 and moved all 2,500 copies made.
The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely
Jack White had always protected his music while with the White Stripes (journalists used to have to jump through hoops to hear new albums, especially when Icky Thump came out), and he transferred that same philosophy over to his band the Raconteurs. When the time came to put out their second album, rumors swirled around the Internet for a day or two before the band officially announced that Consolers of the Lonely existed and that it would be ready to buy at iTunes in a week (though iTunes did end up selling it early).
Nine Inch Nails, The Slip
Following the success of Ghosts I-IV, Reznor dropped a proper Nine Inch Nails album a few months later. Called The Slip, it appeared on the Nine Inch Nails website with the simple message, “This one’s on me.” Once again, a physical edition was made available some time later.
What’s your favorite last-minute album? Let us know in the comments!