The career trajectory of Radiohead moved them from one-hit wonder to rock legends within the span of a decade. From the popularity of their 1992 grunge hit “Creep,” followed by the prog-tinged album “OK Computer,” and the IDM experiments of “Kid A,” the band’s status is practically immortal. For a band that is requested nearly every year to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, it raises the question as to why a guaranteed stadium sellout would only book three concerts in England, their home country, for a 2016 tour.
“I’m as f****d off as you are, and I’m only human,” singer and multi-instrumentalist Thom Yorke tweeted in response to fan backlash over the instantaneous disappearance of tickets. Billboard notes that when they went on sale on Friday, March 18, tickets for every show Radiohead is set to headline this year had sold out within minutes.
Instead of just adding on more tour dates as requested, the band issued another statement on Twitter urging fans, “if you’re thinking of buying a ticket from a secondary sites PLEASE PLEASE [sic] carefully check the original rules of the venue concerned.”
With only 21 upcoming shows slotted for the 2016 tour, Radiohead will only be visiting 11 countries, eight in Europe, three in North America, one in Asia and none anywhere else. This is sincerely perplexing given the status of Radiohead as a music industry juggernaut.
Excitement and fan speculation over what has been tentatively titled “LP9” has lingered among fan sites since 2012. The hype for this album stems from the mixed reception toward “The King of Limbs” juxtaposed by what was generally considered one of the band’s best tours that following year.
For those unable to catch Radiohead live, they have made extensive efforts to document their performances. Two volumes of “Live from the Basement” as well as the “Scotch Mist” compilation exist to provide fans with videos of the band taking the stage. The extended set lists featuring cuts that don’t appear on the band’s studio albums make these videos a special treat for any fan. Additionally, Radiohead’s live equipment rig that includes everything from a quaint toy piano to the primitive hardware of the ondes Martenot synthesizer is a spectacle in itself.
Currently, to watch the band perform, tickets are on sale on secondary sites like StubHub, and start around the $2000 mark in England and only get worse from there. This is seen as a slight from fans native to the country as they feel they are being ignored in spite of their outreach for the more appealing market of the United States.
However, Radiohead isn’t the only headliner under fire for concert etiquette and ticket sales this year. With prices touching $10,000 at some stops, pop queen Beyoncé’s actions have been subject to widespread scrutiny. Beyoncé’s tour follows suit in that both artists rarely step outside North America and Europe, despite the existing fanbases outside of those continents.
The team behind Beyoncé at least had the courtesy to book her shows at venues that would be able to accommodate the size of her projected audiences. Additionally, her tour contains twice the number of performances as Radiohead’s and currently has tickets available at half of her stops. This effectively means that Beyoncé still has purchasable tickets at as many locations as Radiohead has sold out.
Compare these two big-name artists to Norwegian black metal legends Mayhem, a band that is to metal what Radiohead is to rock. While they have not hit a mainstream market as efficiently as the British band, they still have a sizable following. For Mayhem, this comes with the awareness to book shows in every corner of the globe, acknowledging their fans outside of Europe and North America.
Following the outreach of fans spread quickly through the Internet, it is apparent that what Mayhem is doing well, Radiohead is not. A further consideration for a band like Radiohead is the ease of transportation to other countries and fast venues of communication from fans.
With ardent followers in both South America and Oceania, the feeling of neglect is strong. Fans in Argentina particularly have taken to sites like Reddit to express their disappointment in being unable to see their favorite band live.
It seems odd for a band that has been around for as long as Radiohead and routinely tops charts to have issues with communicating with fans this late in their career. But in actuality, the fans have been dealing with these problems since Radiohead first became famous.
Since “Creep” first hit the charts, the band started a legacy of refusing to play the song in their early sets. They recognized its popularity and purposely stopped performing it to spite an audience filled with dedicated fans so they could get back at people they never truly confirm were actually there. Now, over 20 years later, the band demonstrates that they refuse to learn.
Jeffrey Holmes is a fourth-year student majoring in philosophy. They can be reached at JH791223@wcupa.edu
Eric Ryan is a second-year student majoring in English. They can be reached at ER821804@wcupa.edu