Spotify celebrates its fifth birthday today, but the streaming music service probably shouldn’t expect a present or card from Thom Yorke.
The Radiohead and Atoms for Peace musician has renewed his attack on Spotify in an interview with Mexican website Sopitas, describing the company as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”, and attacking its relationship with major labels.
“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,” Yorke told Sopitas.
“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.”
The interview follows Atoms for Peace’s decision earlier this year to pull its albums from Spotify and other streaming services, with Yorke and bandmate Nigel Godrich sparking a heated debate with their tweeted views on Spotify being bad for emerging artists.
The new interview is Yorke’s longest yet explaining his views, as he compares Spotify to what Radiohead did with their In Rainbows album in 2007, self-releasing it online and allowing fans to set their own price for the download.
“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 a way, like Spotify suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process,” said Yorke.
“We don’t need you to do it. No artists 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.”
Spotify has become a lightning rod for criticism of streaming music by artists in recent months, partly because it’s the biggest service of its kind, with more than 24m active users and 6m paying subscribers.
The company has defended itself by pointing to the money it has paid out to music rightsholders – $500m by the end of 2012, with another $500m expected this year. And while that doesn’t answer Yorke’s specific criticism about major labels, Spotify has been praised by companies in the independent music world too.
In January, Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills said that 22% of his label group’s digital revenues had come from streaming in 2012. Meanwhile, independent labels’ trade body Merlin – which like the major labels has a stake in Spotify – said in May that a third of its members had seen streaming revenues more than double in the last year.
Spotify has also been hailed as a key factor in the music industry’s comeback in countries like Sweden and Norway, where recorded music revenues rose 12% and 17% respectively in the first half of 2013, following more growth in 2012 after a decade of declining music sales.
Thom Yorke remains unconvinced that streaming is the answer to artists’ problems, though. “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,” he told Sopitas, before suggesting that the music industry should rethink its backing for certain new business models.
“It’s like this mind trick going on, 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,” said Yorke.
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