Thom Yorke Says Spotify Is ‘The Last Gasp of a Dying Industry…’

Spotify isn’t the future, according to Radiohead and Atoms for Peace musician Thom Yorke. Rather, it’s the end of the past.

Here’s what Yorke recently told Mexican site, in an extensive interview.

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What we’re experiencing is the last gasp of the old music industry, which will eventually die and become something else.

When we did In Rainbows, the most exciting part was the idea that we could have a direct connection between ourselves and the audience. Now, all these damn people have gotten involved, like Spotify, who are trying to be gatekeepers in this whole process. But we don’t need them to do that.

In fact, no artist needs it, we can do all that sh*t ourselves.

So yes, I feel that Spotify is damaging, and this is about the future of all music and whether we believe that there is any future for music. Same with the movies and books.

Spotify thinks they can gather all the music, give away all the old catalogs and not die in the process.

For me, that isn’t’ the mainstream or the future; it represents the end of the current system.

Image by Warren R.M. Stuart, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC by ND 2.0).
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48 Responses

  1. AnAmusedGeek

    Heh – I like this guy…
    Lots of places will give ya an easy-to-use website for a couple of bucks a month – add some feeds to your youtube channel and you have a pretty decent start…if you want to go ‘real time’, podcasting isn’t that hard either.

  2. Claes Olson

    Oh… awgh…. Sigh!!
    And I definitely thought that Thom Yorke was more intelligent than that….
    Do you remember the last Bowie-produced Iggy Pop album?

  3. cjhoffmn

    To me, Thom could very well be right, however, its not a gasp that will just “go away,” and I think that putting things in terms to be dealt with rather than hoping they just go away is important.
    Like it or not, streaming got a huge start and is massively capitalized with giant user bases. While we can all “do it ourselves” – that subjects us to direct competition with well capitalized competitors.
    Seems to me Thom’s great for highlighting the issues, and encouraging the right ideas. We need to find the alternative to supply the fans / consumers with what they want at a price and in the form of which they are willing to pay.
    While Thom is right that there are relatively affordable tools – tunecore / diymusicplatform – can get someone up and running fairly quickly to be prepared to make $$ but then what.
    How can we market to people who are consuming for free from other sources? I think the new future is coming – but we have to figure out how to build this new thing in the context of dying giants that will make a mess while they die, and take a long time while they do it. In one management meeting, Spotify can redirect more marketing $$ than a huge portion of the top non-major signed artists. So as they gasp what will they do?
    So to me – the question isn’t whether this is the last gasp – the question is what should all do in order to take advantage of that last gasp to further the right cause – creating and delivering music at a price and in a form that fans want to pay for it.

    • Visitor

      “How can we market to people who are consuming for free from other sources?”
      The answer is simple: Remove the illegal sources.
      And that’s what’s going right now.

    • GGG

      In reality, nobody knows what fans are willing to pay because they have been normalized by everyone except the fans. The Market hasn’t really been allowed to speak except in an all or nothing way.
      People are obviously over paying $18 for a physical product, except in the vinvyl market. So it’s not that.
      People obviously want to pick and choose, ie not buy an album for a song or two. So you right away have to take a big chunk of your expected sales away because the demo of buying an album for a single does not exist anymore in any useful amount.
      Steve Jobs made music $10 and people have trouble accepting that. So why do we still use that as the go to price of music? You can think your music is worth $100 per album, doesn’t mean anyone else does. I’ve seen bands with a small fanbase put their shit on Bandcamp for $5 and sell close to a thousand copies. Which meant an unusually percent of their fanbase bought the record. So maybe the norm should be $5? Or maybe you can get away with $8? The point is, too many in the industry seem to be challenging consumers instead of working with them. Like, our music is so far above you you should feel lucky to be able to listen to it. You can certainly think that all you want, but you can’t actively run your business that way.

      • Visitor

        “nobody knows what fans are willing to pay”
        On the contrary — history shows that fans are willing to pay whatever you charge for your music.
        Provided, of course, that you don’t give it away and that they can’t steal it without consequences.
        That’s why piracy is the only subject worth discussing in the music industry today.

        • GGG

          No, it doesn’t. A hit record at the height of CD sales still sold to like one percent of the population. And they were reaching far more than that.

          • Visitor

            “A hit record at the height of CD sales still sold to like one percent of the population”
            And hit tunes a few hundred years ago sold to a handful bishops and princes.
            At obscene prices.
            Fans are willing to pay whatever you charge.
            It’s all a matter of supply and demand.

          • hippydog

            sounds to me like you two are actually agreeing.. 🙂
            the basic concept of SUPPLY AND DEMAND is pricing can fluctuate.
            # of items sold is based on the value VS the price..

            which is how it works pretty much EVERY ELSE except the music industry.. which has locked itself into the idea of “Units” sold or played, all at the same price..

          • GGG

            I love how you usually compare the industry of today to the industry of 1950 and now you’re going to start comparing it today to that of 1750. New rule: stay within two decades.
            My points still stands, and you know I’m right, that for how culturally large someone like N’Sync was, for example, they sold to a tiny % of people who would say they enjoyed N’Sync. So $18 for a CD was too much, or not appealing to many, many people.
            Eventually, those that just didn’t get the music were given an easy way to get it without paying, that obviously some of those that used to buy took advantage of, as well.
            Now, we’re over the edge, people love consuming a shitload more music, especially when you can bring it with you on the same device that you can take pictures and make phone calls.
            Piracy is proof that fans are not willing to pay whatever you charge. Not sure why that is not the simplest thing in the world to understand. And if you get rid of piracy in 2013, people will not magically go back to paying for shit. OR they might if we don’t stupidly overprice everything.

          • hippydog

            and again 🙂
            both of you are correct..
            You can set pricing at what ever you want when you control the supply..
            and yes..
            Piracy is THE primary cause of the lack of demand..
            BUT the belief that the only way to “fix” it is to completely remove piracy is foolish and dangerous,
            as the ONLY way to completely remove piracy in the modern age is to drastically control access to the internet and the ability to digitize music..
            in essence..
            no matter how you slice it..
            some form of piracy will ALWAYS be out there.. and that needs to be taken into account..
            ERGO: conversations like pricing, streaming, different types of licensing, etc, etc, etc ALL have a place at the table (if the industry truly wants to save itself)
            THERE IS NO ONE SINGLE SOLUTION.. (NOT YET, maybe never)

          • Visitor

            “the ONLY way to completely remove piracy in the modern age is to drastically control access to the internet and the ability to digitize music.”
            Agree, nobody wants a surveillance society. And there’s no way you can control the ability to digitize music. If you can hear it you can digitize it, period.
            What’s going on is a war against mainstream piracy.
            And that is a war we can win.

          • hippydog

            Quote “What’s going on is a war against mainstream piracy. And that is a war we can win.”
            Define “win”
            because what your saying sounds more like a ‘belief’ then something based on current facts..
            matter of act.. think of the statement “war” in itself
            War : : a state or period of fighting between countries or groups
            : a situation in which people or groups compete with or fight against each other

            : an organized effort by a government or other large organization to stop or defeat something that is viewed as dangerous or bad

            The very act (if it was a war) is also against the very same people the artists want to again sell their product too.. (so the act of war can actually make the idea of “winning” the war unattainable.. catch 22 if you will)
            You dont think there will be collateral damage?
            You really think everything will go back to the way it was?
            so again..
            fact: mainstream piracy can be mitagated and controlled, but never completely removed.
            fact: the changes that would have to happen to implement the control, would also change the end product.. (how music is delivered and consumed)
            Fact: the product has already been radically changed and spread out..
            therefore the statement “And if you get rid of piracy in 2013, people will not magically go back to paying for shit””
            seems pretty dead on..
            The ‘old’ boss sucked.. The ‘new’ boss is worse (but sick and may not live) ..
            The third boss your not gonna like much either..

          • VIsitor

            “Piracy is proof that […]”
            … people will steal everything from you if they can without consequences.

            “And if you get rid of piracy in 2013, people will not magically go back to paying for shit”
            Sure we will — and here’s why:
            We can’t live without music!
            Write a gorgeous tune GGG, and we’ll pay you whatever you charge!
            Provided, of course, you don’t give it away and we can’t steal it without consequences.

          • GGG

            Lots of people steal shit from people even with consequences. Look at the finance industry. Look at shoplifting. Look at gym locker room theft. People in general are selfish shits.
            Anyway, you don’t have to respond to this because we’ll just go around in circles at this point, but our fundamental difference in opinion seems to be you think record sales in the 90s were as close to 100% of potential buyers as it gets. IE, if Band X sold 750K copies, that was it. I strongly disagree with that, and see price as the burden. This is why people cared so little about stealing. They felt ripped off. And after a decade plus of trying to convince them $10 wasn’t too much and you have to help your favorite artists out, people don’t seem to care too much about that either.
            As much as I champion streaming, I’m not in any way for abolishing DLs. I think they can go hand in hand. Some people will always buy, some people will steal, some would have stole but stream now and then maybe buy, etc. There was even a front page thread on Reddit the other day called, and I’m paraphrasing “I recently realized that streaming services like Spotify, Rhapsody, etc have completely stopped me and my friends from stealing music.” It got thousands of up votes and thousands of comments in agreement.

  4. Radio & Records Vet

    Question: are there more or fewer record labels in existence today than in 1999?

    Question: are there more or fewer “radio” stations in existence today than in 1999?

    Question: are there more or fewer bands getting airplay and stage exposure today than in 1999.

    Radio and Records Vet

    • GGG

      1) In reality there’s probably more, though many of which just exist to exist and can’t really bankroll anything. Having said that, the options and ability to self-finance are greater than ever before.
      2) Fewer which sucks, but thanks to the internet that’s not an issue unless you want to be a superstar.
      3) Depends what scope you’re talking. Overall though, more. No question.

      • Radio & Records Vet

        1. There are mulitples more record labels – each working in the marketplace – producing many times more recordings than ever before – and that doesn’t include personal vanity labels.

        2. There are MORE, not fewer, “radio” stations – of which we have to consider Pandora, Spotify, as well as the 5000 stations using the Live365 platform .. and as well HD radio and the transponders that broadcast those stations onto the existing analog bandwidth.

        3. There are more bands producing more music today than at any time in history.

        What it means is that the ability to cut through the noise is greater than it’s ever been. It requires a greater investment, and a more dedicated and professionally experienced team to get to mass exposure today. Discovery is more likely to come from friends and family I think.

  5. GGG

    Won’t disagree with the headline statement. But that’s what happens when an industry sits on its ass and bitches for ten years instead of problem solving.

    • hippydog

      I disagree with the title 😉
      Its not a last gasp, its an industry trying to find a new format to compete with the unregulated mp3 format..
      problem is, there is no “standard”.. We have itunes radio,competing with RDIO, competing with spotify..

      • GGG

        Fair enough. I’ll say it’s somewhere in the middle then ha

      • Tune Hunter

        RDIO is for sure in same class as SPOOFY and THE Tube!
        All of them are MUSTARD GAS made for the Music Industry.
        Well, but current folks in charge, love those avangard crowd pleasers.

    • Visitor

      “But that’s what happens when an industry sits on its ass and bitches for ten years instead of problem solving”
      And what exactly is it that you do…

      • GGG

        I bitch for a small part of the day, and spend the rest figuring out how to work with the environment I’m in, and make money for my artists and myself so we can all afford to pay rent in an overpriced city, which we all can. Unfortunately my strong points don’t include inventing an industry overhaul or a mindcontrol system, or believe me, I’d be all over that. Also unfortunately, I was 13 when Napster launched, so I probably didn’t really have a strong grasph on what was going on.

      • visitor621

        “And what exactly is it that you do”
        and what do YOU do where that question matters?
        oh.. wait.. dont answer that.. Since you couldnt even bother logging in, any response or question from you is meaningless..

  6. REMatwork

    Whether you agree with him entirely or not, Thom Yorke has the authority to speak. I think what he says rings true, myself.
    The scary thing for me is that there’s been no summit, no meeting called, nor even engagement on ideas that are out there to discuss things like protocols, exchanges, cooperation, etc. This is an industry that has been adversarial for so long that it will fatally not cooperate.
    So instead of using ingenuity, getting the best minds together, we are operating on the “buzz app” model. It’s just everybody running around doing cute apps, with short half-lives. None of which are designed to solve the problem except in a “maybe we’ll get lucky” sort of way.
    As I chronicled several years ago:

  7. Alex

    He says in the interview “We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off. “.
    So do it!
    All anyone who comments on this site (and others) does is complain. The industry sucks. Majors suck. Spotify and Pandora suck.
    So fuck off, and come up with an alternative.
    They might be just trying to make a buck off music but these companies are the only ones out there with any traction doing anything. If you don’t want tech companies to take over music get off your ass and build it yourself. (Yes, you Thom Yorke).

    • Ignorance is not bliss

      err, Thom Yorke is one that actually DID…

      FYI, musicians DON’T HAVE A CHOICE about a lot of these services as we are… wait for it…
      ..GOVERNMENT MANDATED to do buisness with them via the consent decree and compulsary licenses…
      So yes, there is a HELL of a LOT of things to complain about. If you only knew what you were talking about, you’d join in the chorus…

      • Alex

        Spotify’s deals are all done on the free market. Rights holder to Spotify.
        If you sell your rights on the open market you can’t complain about the price.

        • Mickey Mac

          Sounds like someone needs a refresher course in Compulsory Licenses 101…

          • GGG

            If a compulsory license allowed Spotify to put whatever they wanted on their service how come they don’t have so many massively popular catalogues?

  8. Big Swifty

    We have heard this cyber utopian pipe dream for the last 15 years.
    Self publishing/distributing via the internet will level the playing field and their will no longer be any need for major labels and their accompanying marketing, distribution, publishing machine.
    “…No artist needs it, we can do all that shit ourselves.”
    Yes Thom you can do it. You were marketed and distributed by the majors for years. You have fans because they sold you to the public.

  9. Tune Hunter

    SPOOFY and THE TUBE are the bigest legal industrial WHOREHOUSES ever existed!
    Labels do not care if they will prostitute all of the content!
    They actually supply rape victims.
    All key musicians and label’s shareholders must unite and act NOW.
    MUSIC is SCREWED by few for no reason by less than 10 folks.
    100 billion dollars industry is around us – we just need to change assignments for some lost industrial NERDS.
    Shazam leads the team!

  10. the truth ruth

    Thom, what are you talking about!? You started your band in 1985, fooled around for seven years before EMI/Capitol finally picked you up and promoted the hell out of you for ten years. They sold 30 million records and made you a friggin’ millionaire. You can only do it all yourself now, because EMI/Capitol made you known to a worldwide audience. Please don’t use a recordcompany any more, let’s see how that works out for you…

  11. Zac Shaw

    Radiohead will pull whatever tracks they can from digital distribution and launch their own exclusive music subscription service. You’ll be able to stream the band’s entire past and future output for a few bucks a month. Each month, auxilliary content like text, images, video and interactive microsites. They’ll make millions.
    The future of music is out of the hands of the industry that ran it into the ground. Fans and musicians have always controlled the music industry, they just didn’t realize it until the major labels gave them the chance.

    • Visitor

      “The future of music is out of the hands of the industry that ran it into the ground. Fans and musicians have always controlled the music industry, they just didn’t realize it until the major labels gave them the chance.”
      Fans and musicians still need an interface to find each other, though.
      Unfortunately, this interface has been Google for a lot of years. And that didn’t help anybody except the Piracy Industry.
      What we need now is a legitimate interface.
      A simple and legitimate search engine that connects fans and musicians — not fans and criminals.
      Perhaps Windows 8.1 will be that interface.
      One of the selling points is its new search. Here are a few buzz words:
      “Search once. Go anywhere.
      A single search now brings you results from your PC, your apps, and the web.
      Find a song and start playing it, or find a video and watch it right away.
      Powered by Bing.”
      Please note that last word.
      Could make all the difference.
      MS shouldn’t be dismissed. They have done it before. And this could be the right time.
      Sure, Apple is the biggest brand right now but nothing really happened since Jobs. And everybody in art/music/literature/movies are sick and tired of Google.
      Everybody’s waiting for something.

        • Visitor

          Haha, nooo I’m a natural born Apple fan boy. And I do most of my work on macs.
          But yes, Bing could be a sleeper.
          It could in fact be the Google Killer a lot of people are waiting for!
          Think about it:
          A one-step search, fast & easy, non-intrusive, non-infringing, not at war with every content provider in the world, deeply integrated in every Microsoft product on the planet.
          Plus, if Apple has to choose between two evils and implement either Bing or Google in order to compete with Windows 8.1+, who do you think they’ll prefer?
          A tough but civilized rival — or their worst enemy?

    • Johnnykrisma

      So will I have to have a separate subscription service for any band I might feel like listening to? Seems like that would be pretty unwieldy.

      • Visitor

        LOL … yep … or just listen to one artist at a time. Pretty damn boring if you ask me … especialy if it is just radiohead!!! Ugg … just shoot me.

  12. Visitor

    “In fact, no artist needs it, we can do all that sh*t ourselves”
    Yes, that’s the truth!
    All gatekeepers — including iTunes — will disappear, eventually.
    We only need two things:
    1) A platform.
    2) A way for customers to find that platform, i.e. a legitimate search engine.
    That’s it.
    And we already have the platform (any personal website will do). Now we just need a legitimate search engine.

    • Tune Hunter

      I agree, and your platform is here!
      It is radio any knd of radio including new iTune Radio, just limit inteligently display content.
      Shazam, Sounhound etc are your legitimate search engines.
      Tune ID they provide would become mundatory purchase of tune at the discovery moment.
      Cash has to come at the moment of your exposure to the tune.
      Then when we convert radio in to the music stores, discovery of the new music will self-propell to unseen levels.
      If you are any good artist Radio DJs will find you to participate in your global success.
      Creative DJ would become micro label and promoter delivering cash to artist and new quality and also cash to the station.

    • Mickey Mac

      I agree for the most part, but there is one step missing. Yes, you need the platform and, yes, you need the search engine. The missing link revolves around the question of who controls the search engine and content. Right now, Big Business controls both and thereby controls the method and and rules regarding compensating the artists. Perhaps if the artists would unite and partner with a search engine provider to come up with a better mousetrap, things might change. But that would mean completely turning the present model (compulsory licensing, PRO’s, etc.) on its head. Given the fact that doing so would not endear any artist to that artist’s PRO, the artist controlled search vehicle/platform would have to offer pretty much everything that a PRO could offer, which might mean developing a totally new PRO. On other words, as I see it, it would be a difficult project that would require a lot of serious planning, work, cooperation between artists – not impossible, but highly improbable – as well as a lot of $$$. I don’t think the current streaming environment is optimal for artists because they have no control. To improve things for artists the artists have to take back the control. Big Business is, and always has been, out for itself. Artists have to become a major voice in order to overcome the power and $$$ wielded by Big Business.

  13. Julianna

    I want to point out the only reason “In Rainbows” was so successful was because Radiohead already had a significant following. What about emerging artists? Spotify is providing a legal alternative to P2P file-sharing. Maybe it’s not the best way to compensate creator’s, but it’s better than it being illegal. Spotify isn’t trying to be a gatekeeper. They’re trying to enable monetization of people’s content ie. the labor everyone put into making it!

    • blahblahblah

      Sure, Thom Yorke or any established act can put out their own music and sell it on their website and if he didn’t initially have a big label behind him he’d be slinging soy burgers right now instead. He’s got his head up his pasty arse. However, I don’t think Spotify and other streaming services are doing musicians any favors. Getting the general public used to the idea of music for free is just not a good idea. Nobody will ever want to pay for it again. I think illegal file sharing is far less harmful because not everyone feels comfortable with it or bothers to do it.

    • Visitor

      “Maybe it’s not the best way to compensate creator’s”
      It sure isn’t.
      But it is the best way to compensate Spotify’s owners, and I guess that’s something.