Radiohead Close to Signing with Side One Recordings/ATO – So Would They Be Considered an “Indie” Band?

As we already reported, Radiohead expect to sign to a record label in order to help distribute their forthcoming album, In Rainbows, despite self-releasing it digitally next Wednesday and as a special box set in December. The label chatter has increased tremendously, especially after managers Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge recently told BBC Radio that a decision was coming within days. It's unsurprising, then, that places like Billboard and Hits are already starting to predict the likely home for the "proper" retail version of In Rainbows.

Both Billboard and Hits point to the same area, but there is an important distinction to be made. Billboard says ATO (and possibly Side One Recordings) is the "front-runner," while Hits seems fairly confident about Side One Recordings. What both labels have in common is Coran Capshaw, a rich, filthy rich dude who manages Dave Matthews Band and owns Musictoday, the Bonnaroo franchise, and plenty more. Most importantly (at least for this story), Capshaw also co-owns ATO, which is a division of the Sony BMG-owned RCA.

So, how does Side One come in? Well, Capshaw owns another company called Red Light Management, which is significant because Red Light and ATO jointly created Side One. You've probably never heard of it, because it's new, and its first release is Underworld's highly anticipated album, Oblivion with Bells, expected on October 16. This is already a good reason why Radiohead might sign to Side One, but also because Phil Costello, a former senior VP of marketing for Capitol and an early industry chum of Radiohead, would be in charge of marketing and promotion.

Long story short: Capshaw owns both ATO and Side One, but Side One seems most favorable for Radiohead's unique position.

What becomes interesting though is whether or not ATO and/or Side One are technically independent of the major labels. Currently, ATO is owned by Sony BMG, but reports say ATO is trying to break its ties with Sony BMG (further underscored with Billboard reporting that David Gray's Greatest Hits will be the label's first "fully independent" release). Meanwhile, Side One doesn't seem to have a direct connection to any major label, aside from the tenuous Capshaw connection. Of course, things are never as clear-cut as they seem, so who really knows, especially during this somewhat transitional phase for ATO/Side One.

So, what kind of deal might this be? According to Hits: "The arrangement is said to be a 50/50 joint venture and will not involve a sizable advance — in keeping with what are expected to be only modest physical sales. What remains unclear is the term of the deal and the number of albums involved."

Distribution, of course, is a different story. The popular predictions seem to be EMI outside the U.S., and RED in the States, an "indie" distro that's owned by Sony BMG. Hard to fully escape the beast, obviously. (Case in point: Lightning Bolt is distributed by a major-owned distro.)

Of course, no deal has been sealed, and rumor has it that EMI and Warner are still in the running. But with the potential of Capshaw's intuitiveness and Costello's direct experience, Side One could quite possibly be a perfect fit. And if Side One is indeed an independent, well, shit: match made in heaven. And then, finally, Radiohead, after all these years, would be this much closer to hiking up their skirts a little more for Dave Matthews.

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