I can’t decide whether Thom Yorke is a petulant child, cynical operator, or a hero to artists. Maybe he’s all three.
On July 14, Yorke declared war on Spotify, removing from the popular streaming service his solo music and that of his experimental band Atoms for Peace. On Twitter he and producer Nigel Godrich complained that Spotify rips off artists through poor royalty rates. “Make no mistake new artists you discover on #Spotify will no[t] get paid,” Yorke tweeted. He also claimed to be “standing up for our fellow musicians.”
And then a few days later, Yorke put his weight behind music platform soundhalo, which will sell video content (in near real-time) from Atoms for Peace concerts occurring July 25 and 26 at London’s Roundhouse.
Yorke’s actions have renewed an ongoing debate about what constitutes fair compensation for artists from streaming services like Spotify — and have also caused some backlash from pundits. When Yorke came out swinging against Spotify initially, music veteran Bob Lefsetz accused him of whining, clinging to the past, and fighting a streaming service that has given listeners a credible alternative to illegal downloading. As Lefestz wrote, “Once upon a time musicians used to lead. Now all they can say is GIVE ME BACK MY PAST! As for saving the future for the new artists . . . I’d feel better if the new artists created their own paradigm, but instead we’ve got wannabes too dumb to do anything for themselves.”