Andrew Keen, my favourite Web 2.0 iconoclast (which is Latin for “almost always wrong”), has a typically irascible blog post in response to a New York Times article on Radiohead over the weekend. Andrew’s point — stay with me here — is that by offering its own music through its own website directly to fans, the British band is doing the entire music business a disservice, and we should all be outraged.
This is classic Keen. He’s asking us to support a business model that virtually anyone with a pulse — including many of those who work in the industry, including rapper 50 Cent — knows is fundamentally broken, and to side with the members of that industry rather than the actual artists whose work is the lifeblood of the business, but who are routinely taken advantage of by that industry. In fact, he’s not just asking us to do that, he’s incensed at the idea that anyone would do otherwise.
This is a little like getting mad at a painter who decides to show his or her work privately and then sell the paintings to whoever wants them. How dare they do this? What about the poor art gallery representatives, and the dealers? In fact, you could substitute just about any creative professional or “content creator” for Radiohead in this case — author, dancer, celebrity chef — and Keen’s argument looks just as absurd.
The fact is that Radiohead is still supporting all of the people who matter: In other words, themselves, their loved ones, their roadies and sound engineers and studio professionals. As usual, Keen wants us to sympathize with the infrastructure instead of the actual creative people within that infrastructure. Why? Because he’s Andrew Keen, that’s why.