Every band should have this much control over their own legacy:
Every Radiohead fan knows that beyond their nine officially released studio albums there’s an almost unending treasure trove of goodies out there, from incredible b-sides to brilliant old studio films. If you really wanted to, you could spend your entire life buried in Radiohead rarities.
Whether it’s the band occasionally throwing their fiercely dedicated fanbase a bone by uploading an old live set onto YouTube, or – in a significantly more sinister occurrence, as happened last year – one of these fans threatening to leak an entire hard-drive of ‘OK Computer’-era rarities online and effectively holding the band to ransom, it seems the appetite for the more discarded bits and bobs from the band’s 25-year career will never die.
But if the band had just been feeding us scraps until now, today they laid out a whole fucking chicken dinner. Behold the Radiohead Public Library.The fact that most bands cannot put their hands on their own recorded output is a matter for the courts. Once an "album" has been released into the wild, the record company tends to own the whole thing. That extends to whatever they feel like, of course.
I don't think it should extend to an entire catalog of rarities and assorted tracks or experiments. The deals that get signed remove all of the rights from an artist with regards to the control of their legacy and their output. There are numerous bands that have a "library" of their own material, especially those bands that are into experimentation and being prolific. It's great that Radiohead has been able to do this, but it should be the standard for anyone interested in a band to be able to see behind the curtain. Not mandatory, of course, but it should be a normal thing.
Having this level of control is the direct result of careful planning and management. Radiohead never sold their souls for money; they held onto their catalog and are now genuinely in control of their future, whatever they want to make of it.