July 15, 2013


Thom Yorke Protests Spotify Business Model, Pulls Music

David Wolff-Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images
David Wolff-Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

From deep-pocketed pop stars to broke indie upstarts, musicians of all stripes have griped about Spotify's minimal royalty payments despite their songs receiving sometimes millions of plays. Well, now Radiohead's high-profile leader Thom Yorke is acting in protest.

Yorke and Nigel Godrich, his longtime collaborator and Atoms for Peace bandmate, have removed their latest album, Amok, plus Yorke's solo debut The Eraser, from Spotify in protest of the company's business model. 

"Make no mistake new artists you discover on #Spotify will not get paid. meanwhile shareholders will shortly being rolling in it. Simples," Yorke tweeted.

Godrich offered an in-depth explanation, writing, "The reason is that new artists get paid f-ck all with this model," Godrich tweeted. "It's an equation that just doesn't work."

Spotify just responded with a statement: "Right now we're still in the early stages of a long-term project that's already having a hugely positive effect on artists and new music. We've already paid US$500M to rightsholders so far and by the end of 2013 this number will reach US$1bn. Much of this money is being invested in nurturing new talent and producing great new music." 

And now Godrich has responded to Spotify on Twitter, breaking down the company's business model and point out its shortcoming.

"So Spotify say they have generated $500 million dollars for 'license holders". The way that Spotify works is that the money is divided up by percentage of total streams. Big labels have massive back catalogues so their 40-year-old record by a dead artist earns them the same slice of the pie as a brand new track by a new artist. The big labels did secret deals with Spotify and the like in return for favourable royalty rates. The massive amount of catalogue being streamed guarantees that they get the big massive slice of the pie (that $500 million) and the smaller producers and labels get pittance for their comparatively few streams. This is what's wrong."

In related/unrelated news, Yorke also recently had a long chat with Daniel Craig, a longtime fan, for Interview Magazine. The two Brits discussed Atoms for Peace, the music business, fame, European economics, family, songwriting and Radiohead's future. 

"The only plan that we've had recently was to take a year off, which was something that [guitarist] Ed [O'Brien] wanted to do," said Yorke. "Ed wanted to go live somewhere else and switch off... Just like, 'Hey, how about we have 12 months where we don't commit to anything at all?'—which is an interesting prospect."

"I just can't ever stop," Yorke added of his new projects. "Even if I stop, I'm very excited about the idea of someone saying to me, 'How about you go do something for a few weeks?' Even if it's only for a couple of days, it's like, 'Yeah, great,' because there's always this mountain of unfinished chords and ideas and words. It's always exciting because if everything else is going to sh-t, I've always got that."