Radiohead are a rock band at a particular time in history. Formed in 1985 and worldwide stars by 1993, Radiohead’s rise came during the final years before the internet changed the industry forever. By 2006 the music business’s equivalent to the Wall Street Crash was well underway: CD sales were plummeting, music piracy was off the charts, and the traditional models by which bands could support themselves were under direct threat. In an NME interview that year, Thom Yorke spoke out with an anger and directness that would mark the beginning of a long crusade against the changing face of things in music. Calling the industry ‘a bunch of fucking retards’ he lamented the way the internet was affecting things, following up in 2010 interview with a stronger slant that ‘”[It’ll be] only a matter of time… before the music business establishment completely folds.”
This year (it seems Thom Yorke speaks out at roughly three year intervals) he’s off again, this time on the subject of Spotify, the world’s most successful music streaming platform, whose much touted success and 20 million active users have made them one of the most prominent faces of the new music industry. In his longest interview yet on the subject, this time with the Mexican music site Sopitas, Yorke said: ‘When [I] did In Rainbows , the most exciting was the idea that we could have a direct connection between musician and audience. Now, all these damn people get involved, like Spotify, who try to be as gatekeepers of this whole process, when we don’t need to do that. No artist needs it, we can do all that shit ourselves. They believe they can gather all the music, give away all the old catalogs and not die in the attempt. So I feel that Spotify is wrong…’
Yorke is not alone in his dislike of music streaming services: recently David Byrne made a similar statement in the Guardian in which he said: “I’ve pulled as much of my catalogue from Spotify I can.” Citing artists pay structure and the effect cheap streaming has on the industry at large, he added, “the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.”
Quite to retaliate to such charges, Spotify defended itself by point to the substantial returns it’s paid to musicians: $500 million by the end of 2012, with the same expected this year. Scandanavia, in particular, is experiencing a surge in music revenues which some pundits directly relate to the influx of streaming music via the internet.
Yorke, however, remains unconvinced. “It’s like this mind trick going on,’ he says. ‘People are like ‘with technology, it’s all going to become one in the cloud and all creativity is going to become one thing and no one is going to get paid and it’s this big super intelligent thing’. Bullshit.”
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Piers Ede blogs about the music industry, as well as writing for Imagem Music
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