Thom Yorke vs. Spotify: Rebel Without a Plan 
July 22, 2013
Josh Kruk in Selling Your Music, Streaming, music sales, plan, spotify, streaming

More subscribers, more problems. As Spotify continues to grow, in both users and catalog, so do its detractors. Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich recently took a stand against the streaming music service, citing that it’s “horrible for new artists.” 

We’ve seen this before.  The Black Keys recently refused to put their newest album “El Camino” on Spotify citing its detraction from album sales.  

There’s a common thread here.  Only established bands who have already made their money are the ones taking the stand against streaming music.  New and upcoming bands are more willing to cast a big net to get ears to their music. It’s been proven time and time again that artists make more money off touring than album sales, so why not do everything you can to maximize your exposure to potential new ticket buyers?  

Some labels believe in the value of Spotify’s exposure potential.  Stu Pflaum, co founder of the indie label Element 9, said in the famous Lefsetz Letter that after a Talib Kweli release went live on Spotify, web traffic tripled in terms of traffic and discussion.  Plus, piracy plummeted.  

“We’re getting real-time feedback from listeners on which tracks they favor and are able to adjust our marketing accordingly with most of our budget still intact,” Pflaum noted.

Why would a band or indie label trying to get exposure turn down a giant megaphone?  They need it, much more than Thom Yorke and Patrick Carney do.

The grand irony here of course is that Thom Yorke and Radiohead once GAVE AWAY AN ALBUM FOR FREE (essentially).  What message does that send to consumers on the perceived value of recorded music?  

“Recorded music simply isn’t worth as much as it once was due to a massive increase in supply,” Duncan Geere points out over at Tech Radar.  “That increase has come from the way the web has broken down geographical and social boundaries. Spotify takes advantage of that, but it didn’t cause it.”

You don’t need to be told that the model has changed.. This year, global music sales rose for the first time since 1999.  It’s no coincidence that streaming services showed 44% growth in that time.

Yorke and Godrich took a stand for “the future of music” and suggested that a “new model needs to be created.”  Fair, to a point. What they aren’t doing though is OFFERING any ideas on a new model.  If their stand is indeed for the future of music, then they need to have a suggestion for the artists who represent that future.  The new artists are the ones out there grinding.  If you want to help them, then show them an alternative route.  Pulling your catalog from Spotify only accomplishes taking your music from one service. By doing that, Yorke and Godrich are only giving new artists the option of going the traditional route, aka the model that didn’t show growth for over a decade.  

Ultimately you can’t fault Yorke and Godrich’s communal flag raising for their craft and fellow musicians.  It’s much less self serving than the Black Keys’ reasoning.  However, until an artist takes a stand with an actual alternative model in mind, it’s nothing more than myopic grandstanding. It’s an ethos of “this model wasn’t how I got big, therefore it can’t work for anyone else.”  This narrow focus helps no artist, large or small. 


Josh Kruk is a social media manager with a background in journalism and music writing.  He appreciates a well crafted Dio or NHL 94 reference.  You can follow him on Twitter at @j_kruk

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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