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Radiohead Dropped 18 Hours of Unreleased Music to Screw Pirates

On Tuesday, Radiohead guitarist and composer Jonny Greenwood made an announcement on Twitter and Facebook: The band had been “hacked,” and the perpetrator attempted a $150,000 shakedown to prevent the public release of the files. In response? Radiohead dumped all of it online for free. You can stream it below for the next 18 days, or buy it on Bandcamp for about $23. All proceeds will go to a climate protest organization called Extinction Rebellion.

Based solely on Greenwood’s statement, it’s unclear what exactly happened. “We got hacked last week — someone stole Thom’s minidisk [sic] archive from around the time of OK Computer, and reportedly demanded $150,000 on threat of releasing it.” Thom is Thom Yorke, the band’s lead singer. OK Computer is the group’s seminal 1997 album. And minidiscs were a proprietary digital storage format from Sony; as you’d probably guess, they’re like smaller CDs.

That should do it for references and terminology. But the timeline deserves more clarity, too. While Greenwood invokes hackers, it seems more likely that someone accessed the physical discs in question. And while Radiohead says that it’s releasing the 18 hours of demos and live recordings from the OK Computer days as a thumb in the eye to that reported ransom, in truth all of those tracks have already circulated freely online for six days, as music and culture site NME had previously reported. The ransom, in other words, was already a moot point.

Sussing out exactly what happened—which bootlegger took what, and traded it with whom, who then released it where—requires going down enough Reddit rabbit holes to make a whole warren. Regardless, the 18 tracks have been online long enough that

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