On July 14, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich announced he and Thom Yorke were yanking the discographies of their solo and side projects (including Atoms for Peace and Ultraísta) from streaming services Spotify and Rdio, calling the move a “small meaningless rebellion.” In the days that followed, Spotify disputed Godrich’s criticisms of what the services pay newer artists, and Godrich replied with further criticisms. It’s a complicated debate, but Godrich and Yorke weren’t the first artists to keep their music off of streaming services, so that, for a time, appeared to be that.
Until yesterday, when London’s Guardian posted an article with the headline “Nigel Godrich: what he really thinks about Spotify.” The article noted that, as tends to happen with social media, what Godrich had in mind as a few modest tweets had unintentionally turned him into a “poster boy” for something bigger. And it quoted further thoughts from Godrich on the subject. Today, the über-producer harshly criticized the story on, what else, Twitter. And though he didn’t specify what exactly upset him so much, the article quotes him downplaying the heated nature of the debate while its emphasis on what it calls Godrich’s “controversial” comments could be seen as only turning up the temperature.
“Talked to the guardian for 1.5 hours the other day about the @ultra1sta remix album and this is what happens … sigh,” Godrich wrote this morning (Four Tet, David Lynch, and Zero 7 worked on Remixes LP, out earlier this month). He added, “should have known better..” and then separately quibbled with a quote: According to Godrich, he hadn’t said a Guardian blogger was “on drugs,” as quoted in the current piece. He had said the blogger was “smoking crack.”
To be fair, he didn’t dispute other quotes that can sound silly out of context, such as when he said, “Everybody is very greedy,” or, “I’m not a dinosaur, I know what streaming is, I know how it works more than anybody I’ve met.” But his main argument is just that the major labels, which previously sold us CDs he deems overpriced, are looking for a similar advantage in the streaming world. He points out that the Black Keys and Adele, two huge-selling artists, have also chosen not to stream on Spotify. “But Spotify will tell you that if you don’t put your albums on, then your albums won’t sell,” he’s quoted as saying.
The key irony of the article is that Godrich is saying the us-versus-them nature of the discussion benefits the people he’s criticizing, and now here he is, in comments he apparently thought were tangential to the interview, being held up as a lightning rod once again. “They’re being divisive,” he said of the streaming providers. “These people are very clever. They’re cleverer than me and there’s more of them than me. And they have a lot more money and time than me.” If you accept that he really didn’t mean to be a poster boy for this debate, isn’t it kind of weird to hold him up as a poster boy for this debate?
Spotify has not responded to the article via social media. Nor have the Guardian or the author of the article tweeted a response to the criticisms, though Godrich and the “smoking crack” blogger are going back and forth something fierce. The Guardian recently found quotes disputed on an arguably more serious matter, when, as Poynter reports, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., said a reporter misinterpreted his comments about Edward Snowden. Trust us, this job can be trickier than it looks.