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Radiohead: Artists, Corporate Empire Or Both?




There’s an interesting article about Radiohead in the Guardian, proving that the UK indie band has grown beyond all expectations. Radiohead is now a corporate empire according to the Guardian, which has formed many companies, something I really was not aware of. Were you? Not only they are about to release an album in June, but they are also in charge of all these companies, just look at this list!

– Dawn Chorus LLP and Dawnnchoruss Limited, ‘the firms the band have set up over the past six months to apparently deal with all the money the record generates’
– Ticker Tape LTD
– Ticker Tape Tours LTD
– Ticker Tape Touring US LLP
– Xurbia Xendless LTD
– Radiohead Trademarl LTD
– Random Rubbish LTD
– Thom Yorke’s Unsustainabubble LTD and Unsustainabubble Touring LTD
– Philip Selway’ Finn Black LTD
– Ed O’Brien’s Over Normal LTD
– Colin Greenwood’s Jompkid LTD
– Johnny Greenwood’s Unreliable LTD….

I had no idea they owned so many companies, and also no idea of the role of each of them, but the Guardian even brings up the astonishing number of 20 companies since the band formed. Not only they are great musicians but they are also excellent businessmen, they do not depend on managers or labels that could exploit their talent, they are complete control freaks!

As early as 1993, they formed Radiohead Ltd to deal with touring income, in May 1996 they set up W.A.S.T.E Products Ltd to produce and sell t-shirts and other merchandise. But they didn’t stop there, they also established Sandbag, a company offering W.A.S.T.E’s expertise to others, and this goes way beyond what bands usually do. Then Sandbag got its own warehousing and distribution arm, Quicksand Distribution, and an American subsidiary, Eleventy Five. When they released ‘In Rainbows’, they set up _Xurbia_Xendless Ltd just to deal with that record’s income, and since they have multiplied companies. Why so many of them? In comparison Paul McCartney is the director of 8 British firms and Adele has only 5…

The Guardian asked the question to Filippa Connor, the only person involved in Radiohead’s finances who was ready to talk:

‘It makes absolute sense for them to make each project its own separate company,’ said Filippa. ‘Having individual companies also protects them, so if something goes terribly wrong with one business it doesn’t bring down the whole edifice. If they had a record that lost money hand over fist, they wouldn’t want it to affect everything else. I know that’s unlikely for Radiohead, but that doesn’t stop it being sensible.’

According to Ian Mack, who teaches business at the British and Irish Music Institute (BIMM), this is ‘how most bands of that size operate now’. Or may be should operate?

‘It seems Radiohead are not so much a band as a conglomerate, having the sort of financial structure you would expect to be more associated with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs than bands from Oxfordshire,’ writes the Guardian. We are surely far away from the romantic idea of the artist disconnected with reality, Radiohead are artists deeply connected with their financial reality and in charge of their empire.

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