Robert Smith criticises ‘pay what you like’ idea

By Editor
By March 3, 2009 March 22nd, 2015 World


The Cure frontman Robert Smith has posted a response HERE to the websites that have criticized some recent Radiohead/Free Music remarks. Smith told he thought Radiohead’s strategy for selling their last album, In Rainbows, needed more thought:

    “The Radiohead experiment of paying what you want – I disagreed violently with that. The idea that the value is created by the consumer is an idiot plan. You can’t allow other people to put a price on what you do, otherwise you don’t consider what you do to have any value at all and that’s nonsense. If I put a value on my music and no one’s prepared to pay that, then more fool me, but the idea that the value is created by the consumer is an idiot plan, it can’t work.”

Here is an extract Smith’s follow-up response:

    “So it seems a few professional apologists (you have to love them!) out there disagree with my ‘every artist should value their art’ musing and think it’s ok for art – music in particular – to be made available free for all… No I am not confusing ‘artistic value’ with ‘commercial value’ merely questioning the dumb acceptance of the ‘free art is the new paradigm – that’s just the way it is’ mantra in the way of our bright and brave new wired world. These idiot critics have tried very hard to turn my general point – a point I made using Radiohead’s “In rainbows: pay what you want” marketing ruse as it is the most widely known example – into a mock shock horror “how dare anyone question the famously independent and anti-capitalist Radiohead. They sell more ‘product’ than The Cure so their strategy obviously ‘worked’ (huh?!!)… and anyway, Robert Smith is way too old to comment on contemporary culture.

    My point is neither particularly new nor original nor exclusively about Radiohead’s “In rainbows” but it is I feel still compelling. Any famous artist with a huge and devoted fan base (often arrived at with a little help from a wealthy and powerful ‘patron’ or two?) can afford to do what he, she or it wants… including giving their art away as some kind of ‘loss leader’ to help ‘build the brand’. All well and good (well… not really! ‘Loss leader’?’Build the brand’? Aagh! But this is the lingua franca…

    However if this ‘art for free’ idea becomes the cultural norm then how do artists earn their living? Hey, hang on, what was that about a wealthy and powerful ‘patron’ like… a big record label? Excellent! All you have to do is sign up and agree to its terms and conditions and it will market you decisively and if you play it right it’s even a wealthier and more powerful parent company that will air your words and pictures and videos and music and ads on its many and various web/tv/radio channels and charge advertisers huge amounts to advertise to the millions of people consuming all your free art. And you the artist will of course get a ‘fair’ reward for your efforts… ? Bah, some ‘new’ paradigm!

    So, I stand by my point: an artist has to value the art they create otherwise I don’t believe they can believe it to be art. I am more than happy to pay an artist for his or her or its art as it obviously helps enable that artist to keep creating. And quite honestly, as anyone that disagrees with this point is unlikely to be an artist, I don’t really care too much what they think… !!! I just wrote all this because I got particularly fed up tonight with the (…) new wired world media that whines on and on without respite or refutation.”

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