When Radiohead were held to ransom by hackers, they shrugged and put 18 hours of unheard material online for free. But for other artists, having music leaked can be devastating
In 1997, Radiohead imagined a future in which technological dependency and out-of-control consumerism had merged to form a dark, digital void. OK Computer, the band’s third album, painted prescient pictures of riot police at political rallies and anxious lives lived in suburbs surrounded by endless motorways. The digital advances promising to bring us together, it seemed to warn, would instead corrode and cause chaos.
Last week’s big Radiohead news wouldn’t have sounded out of place on that album’s technosceptic vision of tomorrow. The band had been hacked, guitarist Jonny Greenwood revealed on Tuesday, and 18 hours of unreleased music from their OK Computer sessions stolen. Pay $150,000, they were warned, or this archive would be uploaded to the internet for free. The only thing more frustrating to frontman Thom Yorke than the situation, fans joked, was the fact he hadn’t thought to mention sinister cybercriminals holding people to ransom on OK Computer in the first place.