Radiohead Responds to Stolen ‘OK Computer’ Demos by Releasing the Music

A week ago, comments began circulating among Radiohead fans that a trove of private recordings had been stolen from the band, including early demos from around the time of the band’s classic 1997 album “OK Computer,” and that the thieves were demanding “upwards of $150,000 for the entire set.”

Well, it did leak. And no, Radiohead didn’t pay. The recordings — about 18 hours’ worth — appeared online last week and were promptly cataloged in detail by a group of fans who insisted, “we are not the leakers.”

Still, to hear the recordings one had to be in the know — until Tuesday, when Radiohead itself released the entire archive under the title “Minidiscs [Hacked],” saying it would be available for 18 days through the online platform Bandcamp. (In an example of the strange full-circle patterns of internet commerce, Bandcamp, which is popular among independent artists, has become one of the most successful proponents of the “pay what you want” strategy that Radiohead pioneered in 2007 with its album “In Rainbows.”)

“Minidiscs [Hacked]” can be streamed free, or downloaded in full for £18 (about $23), with proceeds going to Extinction Rebellion, a grass-roots movement that demands action to address climate change.

The recordings, some featuring the full band and some just Thom Yorke, the lead singer, alone, are strikingly clear, and give a picture of Radiohead as it put together “OK Computer.” Some of the outtakes were included in a 20th-anniverary reissue package, “OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997 2017.”

In a comment posted on Instagram this morning, Jonny Greenwood, the lead guitarist, acknowledged the theft, saying that “someone stole Thom’s minidisk archive,” and “reportedly” held it ransom.

“So instead of complaining — much — or ignoring it, we’re releasing all 18 hours,” he wrote, and added, “For £18 you can find out if we should have paid that ransom.”

Greenwood’s “reportedly” comment is telling: It seems that the band was never actually approached with a ransom demand, but simply read the rumors about it online.

In a brief note attached to the Bandcamp page, Yorke summed up the band’s reasoning:

as it’s out there
it may as well be out there
until we all get bored
and move on

Ben Sisario covers the music industry. He joined The Times in 1998, and has contributed to Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Press and WFUV. He also wrote “Doolittle,” a book about the Pixies. @sisario

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