It’s Spotify’s fifth birthday today, with the streaming service having first launched on 7 October 2008. Making it to five years is an achievement in itself for a modern digital music startup, but Spotify’s party may be pooped a little by Thom Yorke, who’s renewed his attack on the company in an interview with Mexican site Sopitas.
Expect to see the killer line – “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse” – quoted widely over the next day or so. It’s Yorke’s longest interview yet outlining his opposition to Spotify, and while it won’t make easy listening for that company, it does crystallise the ongoing debate over streaming’s value for artists.
“I feel like as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing,” he says, citing Radiohead’s In Rainbows album as an example of the band cutting out industry middlemen. “And then all these fuckers get in the 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.”
Here’s the relevant segment of the interview:
It’s tempting to point out that Yorke’s Atoms for Peace still work with a middleman – Beggars Group subsidiary XL Recordings, whose parent company has been publicly supportive of Spotify and streaming, with chairman Martin Mills – nobody’s idea of a fucker getting in the way – saying earlier this year that 22% of the label group’s digital revenues in 2012 came from streaming.
Meanwhile indie trade body Merlin has talked about independent artists over-indexing for market share on streaming services – both signs that there’s more to Spotify than the shoring-up mechanism for major labels’ back catalogues that Yorke sees it as.
But as an artist, Yorke isn’t obliged to agree with his label over streaming, just as fellow XL artist Adele wasn’t obliged to make her last album available to stream until considerably after its CD and download release.
Spotify has many challenges ahead in its next five years, but making a convincing case for its value to all music – not just the big artists and major labels – in response to the criticism from Thom Yorke and others, will be one of its priorities.