Hypocritical outrage at Spotify has man of the people seeing red

Thom Yorke’s attack on the legal streaming service damages him, music and common sense


It’s stupid, ignorant and hypocritical of Thom Yorke to pull a PR stunt and take down Atoms of Peace (his side project) music from Spotify. Yorke, a designer anarchist, was made a multi-millionaire by the legal recording industry, but now he’s slamming a legal streaming site under the guise that he’s standing up for “new artists” who don’t get paid that much by Spotify.

First, Thom, don’t patronise people by taking offence on their behalf – and did any of these new artists you’re so concerned about actually ask you to make this “solidarity” gesture?

Second, as you well know from your early Radiohead days, new artists don’t get paid much anywhere in the music industry. It’s hardly Spotify’s fault if all those One Direction streamers aren’t rushing to embrace some newly minted band who still don’t know their arse from their elbow.

Third, if you really are that indignant about Spotify payment rates, wouldn’t your argument hold a bit more water if you took down all of your work from the site? But that would mean taking down all the popular Radiohead albums that make you a tidy sum each month. Introduce your money to your mouth, Thom, and maybe we’ll begin to take your argument seriously. Until then your Citizen Smith rhetoric rings hollow.

Yorke has previous form when it comes to meaningless and contradictory moral grandstanding. As producer Stephen Street pointed out this week, after 10 years of heavy EMI financial investment that made millionaires of Radiohead (granted, the brilliant music had something to do with that), Yorke & co then basically gave away one of their albums – arguably contibuting to the very devaluing of music that now has the industry in a tailspin.

Yorke may have been bravely subverting the nasty corporate music world by releasing In Rainbows for free, but in so doing he was playing around with content in the exact same manner that Apple and Google do today. Or as he told the Guardian earlier this year: Apple and Google “have made all content, including music and newspapers, worthless, in order to make their billions”. Making content worthless? Yorke was the trailblazer!

Here’s the truth about Spotify. It’s a free and legal streaming service that gives millions of music fans without Thom Yorke’s financial wherewithal the first convincing reason not to illegally download music by acts old or new. A Spotify paycheque for a new band may not be that much, but it’s better than the absolutely nothing the illegal sites have to offer.

Furthermore, if music is not on Spotify, a new study shows, people will illegally download it instead. And that includes those who go to Spotify looking for Atoms for Peace music, can’t find it, so easily download it for free elsewhere.

There is now conclusive evidence that artists who put their music up on Spotify at the same time as it goes to retail dramatically reduce the piracy download rate of the work.

Sure, Spotify is flawed. What branch of the music industry isn’t? But at least the site is part of the solution whereas you, Comrade Yorke, are part of the problem.

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