Music Business

Thom Yorke May Despise Spotify But He Seems Happy With YouTube

Thom_yorke_spotify_youtube-178x238By Eliot Van Buskirk of

Many readers already know that Thom Yorke didn’t like Spotify after his new band, Atoms For Peace, withheld its music from the Spotify freemium streaming service, as well as all other on-demand subscriptions.

But his most recent quote about Spotify, as harvested by The Guardian from the Mexican website Sopitas, leaves even less room for ambiguity.

Yorke called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse,” by which he means the “old industry,” meaning the traditional, major label-run music business. He contrasts this with the direct-to-fan sales of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album (which was likely possible, as many have claimed, because a major label had already promoted and supported the band for many years).

For most artists who withhold their music from Spotify and other on-demand streaming services, their main objection that these services pay artists and labels very little per stream. Even though the access model should eventually improve culture, these artists are right that musicians continue to be in a tough spot when it comes to getting paid for their recordings, including on Spotify.

On-demand streaming definitely pays out more money than piracy, which is sort of the whole reasoning behind the freemium Spotify — better to get people hearing ads and possibly subscribing than to just let them download everything on Napster or something like it. But until many millions more people subscribe, on-demand streaming will continue to pay out less than artists and labels made during the halcyon days of the compact disc.

Do you know which on-demand services pays less than Spotify per stream, and doesn’t even include a premium version for people who might be willing to pay (although there have been weird rumblings about that)?

YouTube. And Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace music is all over that on-demand music service, including in the above video, which includes the entire Atoms For Peace album. XL Recordings, Atoms for Peace’s label, has official versions up there as well.

The last time we ran the calculations, the musical force of nature Psy (remember him?) made about a third of a cent per view from his monetized music on YouTube.

Spotify’s payouts depend on a lot of things, including the contract a label has with the company — and for sure, things get a little complicated there because the larger labels actually own part of Spotify, and so might be willing to accept lower per-song payouts in return for money they might eventually receive from Spotify becoming profitable. Radiohead producer Nigel Goodrich has himself pointed this out. Nonetheless, one recent estimate put Spotify payouts to one artist at .4 cents per song.

In other words, regardless of who owns it, Spotify pays out more than YouTube. The two numbers are closer than one might imagine, considering that over six million people pay for Spotify, and nobody pays for YouTube, but there they are.

As such, low per-stream payouts can’t be the reason, or at least the only reason, why Thom Yorke hates Spotify. After all, he accepts a lower rate from YouTube. Is it just that major labels own part of Spotify that bothers him, while YouTube is simply owned by Google, a massive multinational that dwarfs all of the major labels combined in terms of revenue, reach, and just about any other business metric?

It’s possible. All we know for sure is that YouTube, a free on-demand music service, has Atoms For Peace on it, even though it pays out less than Spotify, which Atoms For Peace is boycotting.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Scott MacLeod Liddle)

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  1. This is the worst article I have ever read. And there is no such song as “Your Berry Eyes” by Radiohead, try picking a real song next time 🙂

  2. This article makes a very poor point comparing youtube to spotify. spotify is a dedicated music streaming service and was set up specifically to generate money from streaming music, youtube is a much more open platform and free video streaming website that allows anyone to create a channel and upload anything they want and provides a free platform for content providers to broadcast their creations and even earn money from it. youtube does not market itself or see itself as a music streaming service and are not owned by the major labels and therefore their profits would not go back into promoting new bands, which is the main reason thom does not like spotify’s business model as they are making a lot of money while the artists (content creators) get next to nothing.
    Spotify is a way to generate money from a culture formed from years of piracy of music online, however, the only ones who are benefiting are spotify and the major labels, NOT the artists and that is way it is wrong. So, thom would probably prefer a world where piracy is still big as opposed to a world with spotify, because whilst, artists don’t get anything from piracy, at least the major label’s shareholders don’t either. Spofity has solved nothing.

  3. Thom Yorke makes no sense because he wants something that isn’t possible. Of course he’ll contradict himself, there’s no real logic in his argument. Doesn’t matter which stream service, be it spotify, or youtube, or torch music, or deezer, they’re all the same as far as he’s concerned, and when he makes differentiations between them it shows his own lack of an argument.

  4. I can see what the article is saying but I think there is more to it…
    Youtube is video, and video is being consumed in today’s climate at a much higher rate than audio, or at least in the ‘entertainment quality’ stakes.
    I’m not too familiar with spotify but I don’t think it’s driven by it’s video plays, or even if it supports it.
    For ANY artist to ignore youtube or other FREE marketing platforms whilst they are so popular (not to mention effective) would be career suicide going forward.
    You gotta go where the people are.
    I can see why Yorke is against Spotify for his own music, but for others – it’s a great platform.
    Personally I think it doesn’t come down to the streaming pay per views / listens…
    It’s more a principle thing for him, as he’s obviously had negative experiences associated with major labels. And as we’ve just read – major labels are involved here. So that’s why I believe he is against it. Maybe he needs to get over it. Maybe he has! Who knows…
    The music industry is changing rapidly though I will say that.

    Dave McGuire
    Singer / Songwriter / Producer
    Check out my youtube video (for fans of JEFF BUCKLEY & KURT COBAIN)

  5. As much as Thom hates youtube, – I’m certain XL who spent tens of thousands of dollars on an expensive promo video would not let him put it onto a non-monetised platform. That would be written into his standard label contract and it really wouldn’t be up to him to decide as you imply it is – surprised you aren’t aware enough about how labels work to consider that.
    Thom’s spent most of his career at odds with industry standard practise, not sure why people are suddenly surprised.

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