When both the Eagles and Pink Floyd finally made their catalogs available on subscription services Spotify, Rhapsody, and Rdio last month, classic-rock fans and streaming-music advocates cheered. That two of the last major resisters of streaming services would come in from the cold suggested that there was nothing but blue skies ahead for “cloud” music. But now Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have decided to swim against the current. Yesterday, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich announced on Twitter that he and Yorke were pulling the catalogs of their solo and side projects (Thom Yorke, Atoms for Peace, and Ultraísta) from Spotify, declaring it a “small meaningless rebellion.” Yorke added, “We’re standing up for our fellow musicians.”
“The reason is that new artists get paid fuck all with this model.. It’s an equation that just doesn’t work,” continued Godrich, who slammed “the same old industry bods” for “trying to get a stranglehold on the delivery system.” Acknowledging that streaming services may suit acts such as Pink Floyd, with deep catalogs and piles of cash in the bank, he argued that streaming music’s business model is untenable for small labels and new artists, suggesting that if Spotify had been around in 1973, an expensive studio album like Dark Side of the Moon might never have gotten made.
As of Monday morning, Thom Yorke’s The Eraser and Atoms for Peace’s Amok had been removed from Spotify and Rdio; the former could be found on Rhapsody, but not the latter. Ultraísta’s self-titled debut was still available on Spotify, Rhapsody, and Deezer, a European streaming service not yet available in the United States. Atoms for Peace and Thom Yorke are both signed to XL, a Beggars Group subsidiary; Ultraísta are signed to the Temporary Residence label, which might account for the discrepancy.
While Yorke and Godrich may be going against the tide, they’re in good company. (Read SPIN’s Five Artists Who Still Say No to Streaming.) As Billboard notes, Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden voiced his support for the move, writing, “I had everything on my label taken off [streaming services]. Don’t want to be a part of this crap.” The majority of Hebden’s Text label continues to be vinyl-only, although a few titles, like the singles anthology 0181, are available from download retailers iTunes and Beatport. And while chasing down limited-edition 12-inches is often a game of cat-and-mouse (or predatory-Discogs-seller-and-mouse, in any case), Hebden frequently re-presses his label’s singles to meet demand. Earlier this month, a complete set of Text singles turned up in mail-order outlets Bleep and Phonica.
But Google Play executive Tim Quirk took issue with Godrich and Yorke’s position, tweeting, “Wow to @thomyorke’s anti-Spotify tirade. He leaves out the fact that the payments artists receive were negotiated by their labels.” Quirk argued that the problem with such anti-Spotify claims is that “it blames streaming services for the economy in which they operate. Rates are a symptom, not the cause.” The problem, as Quirk sees it, is that consumers simply aren’t willing to pony up enough money for monthly subscriptions to justify higher payouts for artists. “By all means, fight for best rate possible,” he concluded. “Just don’t be dumb about the culprit. It’s not conniving suits. If only it were that easy.”
Read Godrich’s full spiel on Storify. Ultraísta’s Ultraísta Remix Album is out late August, featuring reworks from Prefuse 73, Four Tet, David Lynch, and Matthew Herbert, among others. In addition to the vinyl version, the iTunes release will contain bonus remixes from CHVRCHES, Alpines, and Matthew Dear. The streaming edition consists solely of cover versions of John Cage’s 4’33”. (Just kidding. There is no streaming edition, of course.)