Portishead stands on a precipice in 2009, and endless possibilities lay before them. Their album Third, released last year, fulfilled their contractual obligations to Island Records - and as Pitchfork reported yesterday, Portishead are free agents. Here's Geoff Barrow:
"with the world being the way it is there are lots of options open...but if you lot have any bright ideas of how we should sell our music in the future lets us know , why not! [...] i dont think that were into giving out music away for free to be honest...it fukin takes ages to write and we have to heat our swimming pools...!!!"
I can't imagine better circumstances for a band like Portishead. Although they lack the vast catalogue and consistent longevity of other bands that recently introduced new business models, they've still done more than enough to earn a decent following of rabid supporters - the type of fans that will wait eleven years for a band's third album. They know how to make music - they just need to decide where to go from there.
Radiohead let fans name their own price for In Rainbows on top of a 90-cent service fee, and made a ton of money; probably less cash than if they picked a set price, but exponentially more than if they shared the profits with a record label under the dying system. Nine Inch Nails released the instrumental Ghosts I-IV independently, in a variety of digital and physical configurations, and cleared well over a million bucks in its first week alone! I'm not sure Portishead possess a high-enough mainstream profile to garner similar multi-million dollar attention from Live Nation as U2, Madonna, Jay-Z, or Nickelback, but it's still an avenue to consider. Could you imagine the hipster outcry if Portishead went down that road?
So as Geoff said, if you've got an idea, pass it along. They've got pools to heat and music to write, and Portishead aren't exactly known for doing things quickly.