Inappropriate comparison of the day – and quite possibly of the year – comes from Thom Yorke, whose latest interview included criticism of YouTube that escalated from an explanation of why he uses ad-blocking software.
“They put advertising before any content, making a lot of money and yet, artists are not paid or are paid small sums, and apparently this is fine for them,” Yorke told La Repubblica – his comments were translated by Consequence of Sound.
“Service providers make money: Google, YouTube. A lot of money. ‘Oh, sorry, it was yours? Now it is ours. No, no, we are joking, it is always yours,’ They seize it. It’s like what the Nazis did during the Second World War. In fact they all did that during the war, the British too: steal the art from other countries. What’s the difference?”
As arguments for ad-blocking go, it’s quite something. As important as it remains for creators to have their say about YouTube’s impact, it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable about the Nazi comparison.
More valuable are Yorke’s views on how the BitTorrent release of his ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ album went. The 2014 album was released as a bundle which has been downloaded 4.5m times, although it’s never been announced how many of those downloads converted into $6 sales.
So was it a success? “No, not exactly. But I wanted it to be an experiment. It was a reaction to everything that was going on,” Yorke told Repubblica.
“People always and only spoke about Spotify. I wanted to show that, in theory, today one could follow the entire chain of record production, from start to finish, on his own. But in practice it is very different. We cannot be burdened with all of the responsibilities of the record label. But I’m glad I did it, for having tried to.”
In that, Yorke’s views reflect those of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor when he re-signed with a major label in 2012 after years of direct-to-fan releases.
“Complete independent releasing has its great points but also comes with shortcomings,” said Reznor at the time, later expanding on that by suggesting that marketing and distribution were the key advantages to working with a label.
Both Yorke and Reznor’s experiences suggest that going the DIY route may end up reminding an established artist of the areas where a label can still provide value, in a fair partnership. And in the era of ‘label services’ operations, there’s a fertile middle ground between ‘signed’ and ‘DIY’.