Monday, July 15, 2013

Thom knocks off Spotify

Thom Yorke has pulled his music from Spotify.

Relax, it's only the solo stuff and Atoms For Peace at the moment.

Why has Thom done this?

Yorke pitched in to the debate. "Make no mistake, new artists you discover on Spotify will not get paid. Meanwhile shareholders will shortly be rolling in it. Simples," he tweeted, and added as a riposte to critics that the suggestion his move was pointless missed its purpose: "'Your small meaningless rebellion is only hurting your fans ... a drop in the bucket really.' No, we're standing up for our fellow musicians."
This set-up - musicians working hard for peanuts while shareholders cream off the cash - is a totally unheard-of situation in modern music, sweeping away, as it does, the previous arrangement whereby the major labels were run as charities and bold, experimental music cascaded onto the shelves of HMV. Back in the past, the labels looked after musicians and made sure that any singer or drummer able to afford to hire a good lawyer five years in could renegotiate the initial deal in which they'd signed away everything for something close to nothing and make enough to eat at least twice a week.

It's true that you won't make much from a handful of listens on Spotify. But is there a better way for new music to be discovered?

Nigel Godrich, Yorke's producer, has an idea:
"Streaming suits [back] catalogue. But [it] cannot work as a way of supporting new artists' work. Spotify and the like either have to address that fact and change the model for new releases or else all new music producers should be bold and vote with their feet. [Streaming services] have no power without new music."
Really? This is such a schoolboy error that I can barely even look at it without feeling awful for Godrich.

He's suggesting that this is a thought process that would happen:
- I fancy listening to music. Shall I go to the service that has all the music I've enjoyed all my life, or shall I go and listen to that service that has no songs I've ever heard before?

Some people will do the latter; but they're probably the people who would be off looking for new music everywhere anyway.

What Godrich is suggesting is akin to, say, HMV only stocking records that are year old, and another shop stocking new music only.

But even the most aloof of indie stores knew they had to have some Rolling Stones or Bob Marley in the racks, if only to tempt people over the doorstep in order to ram Chvrches into their hands.

There have been numerous attempts to build new music sites on the internet - many were just as cynically motivated by 'cheap' non-major music as Spotify are motivated by paying light royalties. I think it's fair to say that none have had any real breakthrough.

Yorke is right, up to a point - you won't get rich off Spotify. You might, if you're lucky, add a few pennies to your income.

And an artist like Yorke can afford to turn his back on Spotify without disappearing.

But if you're starting out, I'd think long and hard before getting off the high street.