October 2007 may be remembered as the month the music industry truly began changing its strategy for the digital age, with news that a large group of influential acts have begun experimenting with free music downloads.
Anti-racist campaign Love Music Hate Racism will next week launch an exciting 29-track double CD in partnership with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and NME .
The project was initiated following reports from Channel 4 of record levels of racism in UK schools and reports of the fascist British National Party (BNP) attempting to recruit school students to their campaign of hate by handing out free racist music CDs at school gates.
Artists featured on the release include many key names: Babyshambles, The View, Bloc Party, Lethal Bizzle, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Noisettes, Manu Chao, The Charlatans, MIA, Hard Fi, The Enemy, and many more.
What's critical here is the way this consciousness-raising anti-racism project will be released: Disc One of the CD will be cover-mounted on a special issue of the NME in shops Wednesday 17 October. Disc Two is available right now as a free download, while the first disc will also be made available for download after 17 October.
That's correct - an entire double album's worth of material from a selection of the UK's hottest up-and-coming bands will be made available for free download as part of an anti-racist statement.
The site will contain exclusive video interviews and quotes, live footage of Love Music Hate Racism gigs, anti-racist resources and teaching materials and guides on how people can get involved and put on their own LMHR events.
NME editor Conor McNicholas explains: “The NME were approached by LMHR who told us about the increase in racism in schools and white power music being distributed outside schools. We immediately agreed to help and hit back in anyway we could. We’ve been thrilled with the response from bands keen to donate music and the result is not only a fantastic double album, but one which we hope will help combat the growth of fascist organisations in the UK.”
This month has also seen a brave experiment by Radiohead, whose new album InRainbows is available for purchase and download (at whatever price a customer wants to pay) as of this morning.
The album takes after previous releases Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief, featuring sparse beats, splending orchestration and lead singer Thom Yorke's mesmerising howled vocals. Like all Radiohead albums, it benefits from being listened to several times - this music grows within your consciousness, and clearly underlines the band's role as one of the UK's leading alternative acts.
This month has also seen EMI boss Guy Hands warn his staff that the major label - home of Babyshambles - must face the digital future, "or die".
The Charlatans have revealed plans to make their new album available for free download through the XFM website, and music from the last of the four Beatles, George Harrison, has finally made its debut on iTunes.
These moves come as many established artists are now seriously considering dumping their labels and going it alone, perceiving correctly that the majors are unable to help careers the way they once could.
Speaking at the Q Awards this week, Ian Brown (whose superb anti-war ptolemic, Illegal Attacks is available now), said: "I've heard about bands putting out free albums. The idea of that is that they'll then sell concert tickets and that's how they'll get the money back. Anything that's going to break the game up like that, I support it."