What to do when someone copies you

RadioheadRadiohead’s early albums The Bends and OK Computer positioned them as one of the most influential bands in the world – and inspired a new wave of sound-alike Britpop bands including Coldplay, Stereophonics, Muse and Travis.

The next Radiohead album didn’t come so easily.

Band members all had different visions for Radiohead’s future, and Thom Yorke was experiencing writer’s block, as he moved towards a completely new style of songwriting inspired by the electronica he had been listening to. The band even came close to splitting up.

The eventual result 18 months later was their fourth album, Kid A. Rather than being an obvious sequel to OK Computer, Kid A was more minimalist and abstract, and replaced their melodic guitar sound with electronic textures. (Being a huge electronica fan, I loved it)

Kid A debuted at number one in many countries, including the US, and yet it received both praise and criticism. Some mainstream British critics saw Kid A as a “commercial suicide note”, labelling it “intentionally difficult” and longing for a return to the band’s earlier, more accessible, style.

I watched a TV interview with the band around this time. The interviewer asked the band ’How do you guys feel about the fact that bands like Travis, Coldplay, and Muse are making a career sounding exactly like your records did in 1997?’.

The whole band laughed and replied in unison,

“Good luck with Kid A!”

If you do something great, it won’t be long before people copy you. Your job is not to try to protect your innovative album, book, or business model but to continue innovating.

As Tom Peters said,

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else.

The trick is the doing something else.”

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