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Spotify turns five; Thom Yorke calls it “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”

by Doug Moore

Thom Yorke at the UIC Pavilion (more by James Richards IV)
Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke is well known for his general dissatisfaction with music industry pay models at this point. Radiohead helped affect a sea change in the music industry by becoming early adopters of the pay-what-you-want online sales model. Since then, Yorke and Radiohead producer/Atoms For Peace collaborator Nigel Godrich have become outspoken critics of the pay models built into online streaming services, and of Spotify in particular.

Over the summer, Yorke and Godrich both pulled their solo and Atoms For Peace material from Spotify. As ever, Yorke was good for at least one stinging quip:

“New artists get paid fuck all with this model.”

Yorke and Godrich also argued that Spotify is essentially set up to benefit its shareholders, rather than the artists whose music it offers to its users, and that the service colludes with major labels in an effort to wring more profits out of their classics-rich catalogues.

The announcement set off a lengthy debate that involved such oddities as Radiohead manager Brian Message piping up to dispute Yorke and Godrich’s argument.

The debate petered out for a while, but picked up again last week when Yorke gave an interview to the Mexican culture site Sopitas, in which he again disputed Spotify’s sustainability in response to a question about the future of mainstream music. Yorke offered a particularly memorable analogy at the end of his response. Here’s the whole thing:

“I feel like the way people are listening to music is going through this big transition. I feel like as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing. I feel that in some ways what’s happening in the mainstream is the last gasp of the old industry. Once that does finally die, which it will, something else will happen. But it’s all about how we change the way we listen to music, it’s all about what happens next in terms of technology, in terms of how people talk to each other about music, and a lot of it could be really fucking bad. I don’t subscribe to the whole thing that a lot of people do within the music industry that’s ‘well this is all we’ve got left. we’ll just have to do this.’ I just don’t agree.

When we did the In Rainbows thing what was most exciting was the idea you could have a direct connection between you as a musician and your audience. You cut all of it out, it’s just that and that. And then all these fuckers get in the way, like Spotify suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process. We don’t need you to do it. No artist needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off. But because they’re using old music, because they’re using the majors… the majors are all over it because they see a way of re-selling all their old stuff for free, make a fortune, and not die. That’s why to me, Spotify the whole thing, is such a massive battle, because it’s about the future of all music. It’s about whether we believe there’s a future in music, same with the film industry, same with books.

To me this isn’t the mainstream, this is is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse. What happens next is the important part.”

You can listen to the whole interview with Yorke below. Spotify turns five years old today; if you want to celebrate, you’ll have to choose someone else’s music to stream from its archives.

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