Thom Yorke’s Misguided War on Spotify Might Accidentally Help

Thom Yorke's Misguided War on Spotify

Bringing attention to the underachieving streaming service could get listeners to try it

A few weeks back, Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich did Spotify a big favor: They got every music blog and major newspaper to write about the service. The Internet was blazing with this irrelevant story, but if these guys are that mad at the service, is it worth paying attention to?

That’s Spotify’s problem. The youngsters, who glom up every new social networking service believe it’s irrelevant, for adults at best … and those adults are so frugal and so afraid of coughing up their Facebook identity that they don’t use it either. And then the smug, self-satisfied digerati complain about streaming costs, even though the service allows you to synch four digits worth of playlisted tracks to your handset so it’s like
you own them and …

That’s just the point. Ignorance rules. Kind of like with the artists themselves…

As for the complaint that catalog plays get as much in payment as new cuts … Does Radiohead really want to take less on “Creep?” I don’t think so. Just ask Brian Message, their manager, who came out against Yorke and Godrich’s screed.

A song is a song is a song. And until recently, catalog music used to cost more at retail! And since everybody’s paid by the play, why give new artists a leg up when it’s those who last that reap rewards.

As for major label ownership … I hate to disillusion you, but he who has the desirable asset makes the deal on favorable terms. There is no Spotify without the major label catalogs; that’s how they got their ownership position. As for payment per track, this is what has bothered me since Spotify’s inception, the lack of transparency. It’s all digits, they now even tell you the number of streams tracks have, but as far as delineating every last detail of payment … it’s all behind a curtain, exactly the way the major labels like it. They’ve been underpaying and screwing artists since their inception.

Which is kind of why artists believe they’re getting screwed by Spotify, because the label is keeping most of the royalties. If you go indie, you get paid more. As for getting paid less per stream … Come on, even Steve Jobs backed down regarding indies and the iTunes Store. Indies now make up a greater percentage of the marketplace than ever before. They’re gaining leverage. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by pulling your music from the service.

If Yorke and Godrich were smart, and they’re not, based on creating this publicity juggernaut that is benefi ting Spotify, not the indie musicians they say they care about, they’d be doing “I Want My MTV” commercials for the service. All acts should be doing this. MTV was a failed enterprise before that campaign, but with stars in commercials imploring viewers to call their cable companies and demand the service … MTV blew up.

We want Spotify to blow up.

Yes, we want everyone in America to have a streaming music subscription. We want to grow the pot. But Yorke and Godrich would rather stand on ceremony and deny the future, to their detriment.

Most people to this day don’t know how Spotify works. We’ve got to get them to check it out.

As for iTunes Radio, artists don’t want that. Are you kidding me? You want people to be able to play your music ad infi nitum. iTunes Radio is a RADIO service, just like it says. Do you like sitting in your car waiting for another spin of your favorite? … OF COURSE NOT! But if Yorke and Godrich and their ilk put a dent in Spotify that’s what you’ll get.

So all you artists, and too often it’s wannabes who weren’t making any money anyway but are students of the game, start proselytizing for streaming services. Subscribe yourself, and demonstrate them. Use your power to get your minions to sign on.


Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 9


    Leave a Reply


    Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    1. Ryan Boyle says:

      Since you are unable to explain the numbers and measly payouts for the payment per track system, then I cannot take this article seriously. How about using facts to back up your argument? David Lowery summed this up already. And he doesn’t write professionally for a living.

    2. undeadmouse says:

      SPOTIFY… Is the greatest thing that has happened to music consumers since Napster… and the first real compromise between those who’d rather just dl free music like it’s 2001 and the artists that make the music… and hey, this time it’s legal.

      It’s funny to me that big wig musicians like Yorke are all in a tizzy about this. As far as I’m concerned itunes doesn’t even exist to me anymore. 90% of the music that I consume is done so through Spotify, and 90% of my exploration is done through it or similar “free to play” streaming sites like Soundcloud (which, on the opposite sprectrum, actually charges the musicians for their service.), YouTube, Bandcamp, etc. If spotify and its ilk disappeared tomorrow, there would be less access to these bands and thus less money for them in general.

      The average person (according to Business Insider) isn’t even buying a single album a year, and that’s the cost of a Spotify premium subscription… for a month. I’d say that If you could get more people buying spotify accounts, you’d definitely get more money into the business… sure it wouldn’t be as localized at the top 10% of artists, it would be much more broadly situated, but it would be a good injection of cash for the industry as whole, and in places where the indies weren’t seeing a dime, they’d be gettting some small piece of the pie… (maybe even helping to keep that small band in indiana afloat long enough to make their breakthrough album).

      I think that Yorke’s move is ignorant to this benefit. He can shout from the roof-tops that Spotify is hurting indie bands, but it’s the mainstream that sees the least benefit to these streaming services. In the last couple years since I began using Spotify premium, I’ve bought countless tickets to shows and physical records as a direct result of the kind of immediate access that Spotify offers to its consumers, for bands that I previously wouldn’t have even known existed. It appears to me that if anything, the indies are the only ones seeing Spotify for what it is.

      Independent artists and labels seem to be most competent about how to use Spotify and its ilk… not by making their music unavailable, but by actually offering exclusives to the streaming site… and by (from time to time) cushioning release dates but not abstaining from Spotify releases. After all… Spotify’s financial performance isn’t even good enough to warrant this kind of backlash from successful acts like Yorke’s.

      The fact that Spotify’s exploration features seem to get better and better should be an added reason for Indies to jump on board as quickly as possible… because increasingly… I’m not buying physical records for anything I haven’t heard already. If Yorke’s really interested in indie bands, and not just his own bottom line I suggest he start pushing Spotify like it’s the marketing tool that it is and not like it’s the downfall of independent music.

      • fir says:

        I think it’s pretty rude or ignorant to think Thom Yorke is stupid, to say this makes the whole uninteresting and a waist of time.

        • undeadmouse says:

          I didn’t say he’s stupid, and I don’t think that he is. If anything I imply that he’s selfish and money-grubbing, but I don’t think that either. I just think he hasn’t considered the benefits as much as he’s considered the financials… but you’d know that if you actually read what I wrote before you called it “rude”, “ignorant” and “un-interesting”.

          P.S. you spelled “waste” wrong… also, welcome to the internet and 2013. Everyone here is “rude”, and “ignorant” (you’ll fit in just fine).

    3. Pushndownhipsterz says:

      Having read that article I am at a loss as to what the author was trying to get across in nearly every paragraph. Did they edit out every other sentence as an art experiment?

      • LiaT. says:

        My thoughts exactly! I finished the article and thought to myself “ok, obvs you know nothing about anything that’s why this thing makes no sense whatsoever”.

    4. What he’s trying to say is that negative advertisement works.. The press that this garnered will probably work ‘for’ instead of against the streaming platforms..Only complaint I have with Bobs comments, is his following the sheep and not mentioning one of the best streaming services out there..Rhapsody!

      Drives me nuts, the press never want to mention Rhapsody.. Same thing happens with the Google Plus platform. The press when covering anything along the lines of social platforms, will mention every one but never G+..

      Thought more of you then that Bob.. Don’t be a a sheep…

      Yours Through The Screen

      Mark Ferrasci

    5. oh dear Bob, that was a terrible article, unfortunately its people like you who are the problem by trying to prop up the failing and backward looking mainstream music industry, progress is good Bob, these major labels need to collapse in order for the revolution to begin. Plus, i think yorke and godrich are much more clued up on this issue than you or me and everyone else who has written and commented on it.

      Personally, spotify is a terrible service and is ruining music

    6. movie_guy says:

      People love Pandora and I Heart Radio and similar services like iTunes Radio… What are you talking about?

    More Digital News from Variety