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Best Of compilations usually are released when an artist dies, a band needs to fulfil a contract or a label is trying to make cash off a recently-departed group. In the case of the still-simmering cauldron of resentment that is Radiohead-EMI, it’s the latter. On June 2, the record company releases The Best Of Radiohead – an oddity not just because the band is unlikely ever to have sanctioned such collection, but also, it says, because digital retail has rendered the Best Of obsolete…
“We’re not really bothered about it,” a bothered Thom Yorke told Word magazine. “But our management tried to tell them that people don’t really buy greatest hits any more. Only in Britain, nowhere else. iTunes has seen to that. You might not make your money back. And we haven’t really had any hits, so what exactly is the purpose?”
In an age of on-demand downloading from a celestial back-catalogue jukebox, that may be true. Until In Rainbows, however, Radiohead had refused to let online customers buy their individual album tracks. Given EMI’s good relations with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), those archive songs may well now get such an airing.
Still, the Word interview at least affords an opportunity to prolong the now-chronic Radiohead-EMI relationship. New EMI Terra Firma’s recent claim Radiohead had demanded £10 million to stay on the books “ruined my Christmas”, Yorke said – the issue had been about ownership of the band’s masters, a contractual clause Radiohead progenitor R.E.M. had been careful to add from the very start. Radiohead previously said they got “absolutely zero” from EMI’s sale of their work digitally.