Radiohead 's Yorke and Godrich pull music from Spotify, get attacked for 'meaningless rebelllion'

You probably heard about it yesterday as both Pitchfork and The Guardian carried articles on Thom Yorke vs Spotify, as he and producer Nigel Godrich have pulled their work off of the Spotify network. Their point is that the way Spotify pays may (or may not) work out for those who have a large catalog of music, but actively hurts those who do not - read small indie labels and new bands. The Radiohead star says 'new artists get paid fuck all' on the streaming service, and producer Nigel Godrich adds 'it's bad for new music' just to be clear. What you're left with are MegaStars and hobbyists, no more sessions musicians in between who make a middleclass living just like your pedestrian office manager. "They can tour!" I hear you say, while I ponder how music producers and sound recording engineers tour, and who really wants all those t-shirts you think artists should make a living on instead. There are only so many casual fridays in our working lives.

On twitter, the checking off the list of "things we say when rich$ artists raise a good point" began at once. Step one, accuse producer & artist of being greedy/whiny only because they have shitty deals:

Step two, tell them it'll make no difference so they should stop already:

Thom Yorke & Nigel Godrich cement their point quite well on twitter. They are standing in solidarity with the up and coming unknown musicians, instead of watching as the businessmodel is worked out to give new artists a pittance, while Spotify needs new artists to attract subscribers.

And just to be perfectly clear, Spotify isn't giving major labels preferential treatment because they are the Big Bad Music Biz® , that everyone loves to hate and blame for everything. Big Bad Music Biz wins no matter what, as they are major shareholders in Spotify. Meet your new King, same as the old King.

Of course, the usual arguments that "fat cat middlemen have to accept a smaller cut" will be trotted out right around now, ignoring that neither Yorke nor Godrich are middlemen, and also ignoring that Spotify technically is, so in theory their cut should be small then, right? Apparently they aren't making much money at Spotify, because that too is used as an argument as to why one should accept a no-pay situation from Spotify in particular.

Since Spotify can't afford to pay people, because they aren't even making a profit yet, poor things, we should all cut them a little slack, you see. Because it's everyone elses job to make their business plan work.

Or maybe we should just cut them a little slack simply because they are Spotify? There's a distinct "Stop picking on Spotify" vibe out there.

Spotify is one of the biggest and fastest growing gatekeepers to streaming music. It's got a deal with facebook and has invaded the USA. Lets not pick on them, poor wee things. They only have six million paid subscribers, and a tail of similar services with similar business models following in their footsteps.

I can only read this as an attempt to make the man who gave an entire album away for free to shut the eff up and behave like the rest, have conversations behind closed doors and suck it up. Would a discussion with Daniel Ek get this much attention to the issue regarding up and coming artists bad deal? No. Well then. I rest my case.

Yes, once the business model of Spotify - who like Ikea's lamp has no feelings and no intentions because it is not a human - gets to grow in peace to be so large that Big Bad Music® labels (who own it) has to use them, they'll change their successful model and start paying people. What? This is like listening to a five year olds logic when they try negotiate a later bedtime. Go to bed, it's a schoolnight.

Indie artists aren't bankers floating Spotify some cash until they can actually make a living on their idea, and saying the only other option is people will simply pirate the music, ie do something illegal, is silly. As if the 99 cent stores of Apple, Itunes, Google Play and a bunch of other ways of legally acquiring that song you want to hear doesn't exist. It's not just willfully ignoring legal alternatives, it's also entitled blackmail: if you don't give it all to us at price X we'll just take it instead. I wonder if brokers buy stock with that attitude, I mean it's only ones and zeroes and doesn't have any far reaching economic repercussions at all, right?

Naturally, Techdirt had to use exactly this argument: "Pulling music off Spotify sends the wrong message". Because it's now Thom Yorke's job to keep positive PR spin on the Spotify name and idea of streaming music. He's an unpaid intern in the worlds biggest spin-office.

Pulling music off of Spotify doesn't help artists get paid. It merely drives people back to piracy.

And then Techdirt places the responsibility of Spotify and other streaming businesses bad business plan on the musicians too. It's the artists fault that Spotify can't grow, boohoo. Call the waaambulance.

Of course, what these complaints miss is that Spotify (and the other business that normally gets attacked, Pandora) are still relatively small businesses. If they're ever going to be able to grow to the point that they can actually pay the sort of money these artists expect to get, then they have to be allowed to do so.

Take a deep deep breath. The thing that happens when musicians pull their music off Spotify is that these musicians limit Spotify's grifting of their music. Spotify is making their business plan on some numbers, they are selling advertising space and subscriptions, and they have the Big Bad Music Biz® people as shareholders propping the company up. It's not a musicians job to make this system work for Spotify. A musicians job is to make music, basta. Some do it by playing instruments, others by writing the songs, and the pretty ones auto-tune themselves into tiny dresses while they lipsync along to endorsement deals.

Sure, the industry is changing, absolutely it is. I don't think anyone is saying that it isn't. This doesn't mean that we should just sit back and watch as the biggest gatekeeper for streaming subscription style service makes a permanently shitty deal for new artists. Don't kid yourselves, there will be no incentive for Spotify to change this shitty deal when their business is "established" (as if it isn't right now). People keep saying that the Big Bad Music Biz® record corps were awful in ripping artists off, but will forgive the new King for doing exactly the same thing, except without a R&D department reinvesting in the music scene and nurturing new artists... Why, exactly? Because tech is cool?

And since when was standing in solidarity with those less fortunate than you something that was worthy of disdain?

Lets all just sit here like frogs in the water which is slowly heating up.

Note: my personal twitter account is private, so you can not see the replies I have given to my approved followers, unfortunately. I also tweet from the public account @adland for public consumption if you would like to follow that to converse with me.

Edit - just found this: Daniel Ek wants everyone to retweet the positive endorsement that Spotify has from the now Spotify-famous Swedish band Cazette ...that I have never heard of until now. 24 people so far have spread the word at the time of this articles publication. A-mah-zing impact, man.

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kidsleepy's picture

I wonder how large the hole was when Mr. Brammer finally stopped digging. I hope he brought a canary down there with him.

Dabitch's picture

The canary he brought was this twitlonger tweet from David Draiman, the 'ambassador of rock' at Spotify - where Mr Dramian ends his argument based on a fallacy with the question:'Would you rather the world simply steal your music?'

"Make no mistake that the reason for the current state of reduced revenues for new artists is piracy, and NOT Spotify."

So, don't ask Spotify to adjust their system to not rip off unsigned and unknown artists - because people steal. Gotcha!

Don't look now, the plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead. Is metabolic processes are now 'istory.

fairuse's picture

Maybe the subtitle "The Emperor's New Suit" fits. I wonder what the cut the labels get vs the cut song writer/performer gets.

Dabitch's picture