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Nigel Godrich and Thom Yorke pull albums from Spotify: “It’s bad for new music”

Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke

British musicians Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have pulled their albums from music streaming service Spotify to protest what they say is an unworkable model for new and emerging artists.

"Make no mistake, new artists you discover on #Spotify will not get paid. Meanwhile shareholders will shortly begin rolling in it," Yorke, best-known as the frontman for Radiohead, tweeted last night. "It's bad for new music," Godrich, a producer for Radiohead and bandmate with Yorke in Atoms for Peace, tweeted. "The reason is that new artists get paid fuck all with this model... It's an equation that just doesn't work."

As of today, Yorke's solo album The Eraser and Atoms for Peace's debut album Amok are not available on Spotify – or rival services Rdio and Deezer. Godrich has also pulled his new band Ultraista's self-titled debut album from Spotify. The Verge reports that the three albums in question are still available for streaming via Pandora, which is only available in the US, Australia and NZ. 

It's not the first time artists have expressed discontent with Spotify's business model, which rewards artists based on their popularity on the service (for example, an artist whose music represents two per cent of overall streaming will receive two per cent of all royalties paid out). Grizzly Bear tweeted that Spotify "might be good for exposure but after about 10k plays we get approximately $10".

The main problem is that Spotify's business model rewards established musicians rather than emerging artists. "If you have a massive catalogue – a major label, for example – then you're quids in. It's money for old rope. But making new recorded music needs funding," Godrich wrote across multiple tweets. "Some records can be made in a laptop but some need musicians and skilled technicians. These things cost money."

Spotify itself is not making money – despite increasing numbers of paying subscribers who fork out $10 a month for premium access, it reported a loss of nearly $60m on revenues of $244m in 2011 and is unlikely to have crossed over into the black in 2012.

For Godrich, that isn't an excuse. "The numbers don't even add up for Spotify yet. But it's not about that," he tweeted. "It's about establishing the model which will be extremely valuable."

What could a more workable model for emerging artists look like? Rdio doesn't disclose how it pays artists per stream – it's likely to be similar to peers – but it does pay artists a $10 commission for every new paying subscriber they attract.

A spokeswoman for Spotify said the company was preparing a statement on the matter. In response to one critic who said the "small meaningless rebellion" is only hurting fans and won't have a big impact, Yorke tweeted: "No, we're standing up for our fellow musicians."

Image credit: Flickr user Angela N


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