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How Bitcoin Can Help Free Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Of Spotify

[heading]How Bitcoin Can Help Free Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Of Spotify[/heading]

Thom Yorke has no problem telling Spotify to “fuck off”

Thom Yorke, Radiohead and Atoms For Peace frontman, has been vocal and active against Spotify, most recently in an interview with Mexican website Sopitas.

Yorke is succinct, calling the music service “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.”  In July, Yorke complained, “new artists get paid fuck all with this model”.

“I feel like as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing. I feel that in some ways what’s happening in the mainstream is the last gasp of the old industry. Once that does finally die, which it will, something else will happen.”

“But it’s all about how we change the way we listen to music, it’s all about what happens next in terms of technology, in terms of how people talk to each other about music, and a lot of it could be really fucking bad.”

In protest, Atoms for Peace, Yorke’s recent project, decided to take its albums from Spotify in July 2013,  as well as other streaming services. Yorke and bandmate Nigel Godrich sparked a heated debate tweeting their views on Spotify. 

The recent interview is Yorke’s longest explanation on his views towards such services.  Radiohead, obviously, released “In Rainbows” and let fans pick their price, a revolutionary for a band recently free from a major record label contract.

“When we did the ‘In Rainbows’ thing what was most exciting was the idea you could have a direct connection between you as a musician and your audience. You cut all of it out, it’s just that and that. And then all these fuckers get in a way, like Spotify suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process.”

“We don’t need you to do it. No artists needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off. But because they’re using old music, because they’re using the majors… the majors are all over it because they see a way of re-selling all their old stuff for free, make a fortune, and not die.”

Spotify has more than 24 million active users and 6 million paying subscribers.

The company defends its service, in particular for paying out to music rightsholders – $500 million by the end of 2012, with another $500 million expected this year.

The industry average offers slightly less than 0.4p a stream – meaning that 1m streams of a song would generate about £3,800. Most songs receive far fewer streams.

Spotify stated:

“Spotify’s goal is to grow a service which people love, ultimately want to pay for, and which will provide the financial support to the music industry necessary to invest in new talent and music. We want to help artists connect with their fans, find new audiences, grow their fan base and make a living from the music we all love.

“Right now we’re still in the early stages of a long-term project that’s already having a hugely positive effect on artists and new music. We’ve already paid $500m (£332m) to rights holders so far and by the end of 2013 this number will reach $1bn. Much of this money is being invested in nurturing new talent and producing great new music.

“We’re 100% committed to making Spotify the most artist-friendly music service possible, and are constantly talking to artists and managers about how Spotify can help build their careers.”

In countries like Sweden and Norway, Spotify has been celebrated as reviving the music industry.

In those countries, record music revenues increased 12% and 17% respectively in the first half of 2013, on the heels of more growth in 2012 after a decade of declining music sales.

But, more to the point, Thom Yorke just doesn’t believe streaming is the solution for the future of music.

“To me this isn’t the mainstream, this is is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse. What happens next is the important part,” he told Sopita.

“It’s like this mind trick going on, people are like ‘with technology, it’s all going to become one in the cloud and all creativity is going to become one thing and no one is going to get paid and it’s this big super intelligent thing’. Bullshit,” said Yorke.

Famed producer Nigel Godrich, with Radiohead and Paul McCartney albums to his credit, tweeted in July alongside York:

“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.”

Some artists consider Spotify less effective for them than CDs and digital downloads since Spotify’s per-stream payments are “comparatively tiny.”

Spotify offers less than 0.4 cents a stream – meaning that 1 millions streams of a song would generate about $3,300. Most songs do not receive this many streams.

Yorke Calls For a Decentralized, Peer-To Peer Music Industry

But, something tells me Yorke is making a statement out of principle. Notice he says, as if talking directly to record label suits, “We don’t need you to do it. No artists needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off.”

So, clearly, what Yorke is calling for is a Do It Yourself, peer-to-peer re-thinking of the music industry. Which makes sense, considering the dawning prevalence of the sharing economy and peer-to-peer currencies, and of course the long and slow death of major record labels in Napster’s wake.

At one point during his rants, Yorke argues “it’s all about what happens next in terms of technology.”

What if what’s next in technology already happened?

I presume that, not only would Yorke like to move the music industry away from major record labels, he would also like to move the industry away from banks. In my opinion, to re-invent the music industry along the lines of Yorke’s musings, this must be a given. Banks are the antithesis of peer-to-peer decentralization.

I also presume that, since Yorke doesn’t mention Bitcoin, he has not heard of it. For, someone as astute as he, he would recognize the ability Bitcoin has to free the music industry, and make it easier than ever for new artists (especially those with a little tech knowhow) to grow in popularity.  As I’ve written before:

Bitcoin would allow a decentralized record label (one in which the bands retain control over their catalogues) to manage the financials for itself and all bands at virtually no cost beyond programming. Functioning as an escrow service, a theoretical label could allocate revenue to the bands instantly, taking its cut, while charging for individual “marketing” packages. The bands and label all receive instant payment for their contributions to the website. This is merely one version of how this type of arrangement could work.

In other words, Bitcoin takes the centralization and overhead out of paying for music. Even when Radiohead experimented with the “In Rainbows” release, the internet was not a place where media could be effectively distributed. Today, it is, and this is mostly because of Bitcoin.

So, Thom Yorke, if you wish to be free of the major record labels, Bitcoin is something you’ll want to know about.


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