Atoms For Peace Perform At The Roundhouse 7/25/13

A few months ago, Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich pulled their albums from Spotify, claiming the service was bad for new music and did not fairly compensate artists. Radiohead’s co-manager Brian Message then entered the debate, siding with Spotify. At the time, Stereogum’s Tom Breihan noted, “This one is not over yet…” And now the fight picks up again, with Yorke expanding on his statements in a new interview and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart sharing his two cents as well.

Stewart’s comments appeared in The Guardian late last week:

Thom Yorke made a mistake there, him and Nigel Godrich. They were misinformed. I think they just suddenly got a bee in their bonnet, because Spotify is one of the few companies that is transparent and actually pays properly — as a songwriter you should worship Spotify, because they’ve come along with a solution. … It’s a volume business. If [Spotify] had 100 million subscribers, which is possible, the payment [for the Eurythmics catalogue] would be equal to the band’s income back at the peak of selling.

As Consequence Of Sound points out, Mexico’s Sopitas.com coincidentally interviewed Yorke the next day and got some further thoughts on the matter. Here’s Yorke’s response to a question about mainstream music:

I feel like the way people are listening to music is going through this big transition. 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. I don’t subscribe to the whole thing that a lot of people do within the music industry that’s ’well this is all we’ve got left. we’ll just have to do this.’ I just don’t agree.

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. That’s why to me, Spotify the whole thing, is such a massive battle, because it’s about the future of all music. It’s about whether we believe there’s a future in music, same with the film industry, same with books.

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.

You can listen to the full Atoms For Peace interview below.

Atoms For Peace play the Austin City Limits Music Festival this weekend.

Comments (47)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. wah what?

  3. Like shut up Thom you don’t even spell your name right…

  4. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • That’s funny because Thom was just telling me how much respect he has for you.

    • Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Oct 3rd, 2013 +6

      His views about a music distribution system don’t correspond with yours so you’ve lost the respect you developed for him because his music is consistently great. Makes sense… Prioritize opinions about the distribution system over the quality of the product.

  5. Thom thinks his farts don’t stink or something.

  6. No thanks to Spotify mp3s – can you imagine listening to Radiohead on that, what a joke. Neil Young’s PONO service starts soon, and rather than go backwards in quality like mp3s, it’s a step up in quality above CDs. That I’d pay for.

    • i read that as, ‘Neil Young’s PORNO service’ and then i went, ‘ew’.

      • God, can you imagine anything worse?! He should maybe change the name.

        • i dunno, maybe it’d be a really GOOD porn service. maybe it’d be like match.com – fill out a profile and then Neil goes out and brings you back your ideal matches and sings while he does it! “keep on searchin’ for a [insert your weird thing here]“

          • With the slogan…. “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown”
            classic blue movie titles like A Man Needs a Maid, Cinnamon Girl, Down by the River etc

    • Do you know anything about music codec quality? Spotify sucks in quality because it runs at a 128kb/s bit rate, not because its an mp3 file. Mp3 files can support the entire range of bitrate quality all the way up to FLAC files which suffer from zero compression.

      Neil Young’s PONO service is based off of no scientific research, and in reality will raise audio file sizes by at least 8 times, while offering no discernable difference in sound quality than say, a 320 kb/s bitrate mp3 file.

      Regardless you’re going to need some expensive equipment to really experience the difference that higher quality audio provides (which most people don’t have) hence why most suckers are happy with their low bitrate spotify songs.

      tl;dr PONO is a stupid idea based off pseudoscience, the mp3 codec is fine, blame the bitrate.

      Spend some time on head-fi.org if you don’t believe me.

      • Yeah I’m a musician, I have the expensive equipment, and I can easily hear the difference. I listen mostly to FLACs, but those are 16-bit like CDs. 24-bit files like PONO will be do sound quite a bit better. All mp3′s sound like trash even 320kb/s. Though I know most suckers listening on their laptop speakers can’t tell the difference.

  7. I think Thom Yorke in this case might be crucially unfamiliar with the terms of contemporary digital music distribution. Yeah, Spotify isn’t perfect, but the fact of the matter is people are going to look for free music no matter what – without Spotify, we just tended to pirate or youtube artists to get a taste of them. It’s not necessarily right, but that’s the ball game – and many modern musicians are very happy with the idea, even if they’re not getting compensated fairly, because they see the increased presence they have online as generating more awareness.

    • you can’t deposit awareness jad7845!*

      *that comment exists cuz i wanted to hear what yelling ‘jad7845′ would sound like in my head – a dystopian future where names have been outlawed by the New American Conference.

    • Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Oct 3rd, 2013 +8

      I’m just curious:

      If you were to create some sort of human-sized scale, have Thom Yorke stand on one side of it, and then you hop on the other side, and that scale was calibrated to only measure your relative knowledge of “the terms of contemporary digital music distribution,” do you picture yourself balancing out Thom Yorke or shooting him off the scale in a comical fashion?

      I’m gonna guess that Thom Yorke has probably had one or two conversations about contemporary digital music distribution with some people who know a little bit about it. But you understand Spotify because, unlike Thom Yorke, you realize that there’s a thing called Internet piracy, and you’re aware that Spotify has prevented Internet piracy in all forms. So I’m picturing your knowledge dwarfing his… Totally.

      • That’s a good point, I really didn’t mean to imply that I in any way am more familiar with the music industry than Thom Yorke. I guess a better argument (as others have made) would center on his statement, “…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.” You have to admit that for him, as lead singer of an incredibly successful alternative rock band, to imply that any given artist can get their own music out there as easily and cheaply as spotify provides for them, he’s not accounting for low-level struggling musicians as much as he could (or should) be.

        • Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Oct 4th, 2013 0

          Can you name some “low-level struggling musicians” that you discovered through Spotify?

          • Jad7845 never said that he/she discovered new, low-level struggling musicians through Spotify.

            The truth is that low-level, non-famous bands CAN get their music up on Spotify, which is a mainstream service that many people have access to. The value for the low-level band is not so much in the marketing potential of Spotify, but in convenience to the band’s fans. It makes it easy for the fans to find and access the music in the same place as a bunch of other, better-known music.

          • I think so. How “low-level” or “struggling” does an artist have to be to qualify? Because there’s a huge space between Thom Yorke and some kids recording in their basement. The acts I’m thinking of when I think of Spotify helping the little guys are:

            a. professionals who are really good, but

            b. make a style of music that isn’t mass marketable.

            Because those are the people who can find enough fans to maintain a career, if they can be heard by enough people.

            Here are two not-very-famous acts that I feel fall into that category that I’ve discovered on Spotify:

            Chris Schlarb – Makes great ambient jazz. He emailed me personally when I ordered one of his records on vinyl, so I’m assuming he doesn’t own a jet. I discovered his album “Psychic Temple” on Spotify.

            Nightlands – Dave Hartley is the bassist for War on Drugs, so maybe he’s got his rent covered, but I attended a show involving his side project Nightlands. I was the only one there who had come to see him or knew his music. That is a travesty, because his albums are great and he’s amazing live. I first discovered his album “Forget the Mantra” on Spotify.

          • Just last night I saw a band in town, Easter Island, who are touring. Pretty much the definition of “struggling artist”. I didn’t have any cash on me but they told me they were on Spotify – I immediately added them to a playlist and have been listening to them all day. As soon as I get a chance, I’d like to buy the album. Not exactly what you’re asking for, but I think a good indicator of one of the benefits of spotify.

  8. This always seems to happen with older, established acts. ‘Why pay some company to do what we can do ourselves?’ Because you’re in freaking RADIOHEAD and you can do that. It doesn’t work as smoothly for new bands or for older acts who haven’t been able to sustain their careers as well. If you see a cool new band you’ve never heard of Spotify is great for them. Because you’re probably not going to sign up for and figure out this new band’s personal streaming software just to hear songs you aren’t sure you like that much yet. Or if I want to hear Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” should I seek out his own service (which he would have to create) and use it just to hear that one song? Not to mention you’re limited to that one artist’s catalogue when you make playlists or want to hear other acts.

    I don’t agree with him.

    • anyone else picturing Thom from the Lotus Flower video with “I Wish” playing instead?

    • I don’t agree with you, your basically saying Oh this is a new band, so they shouldn’t get paid for this, because their new.

      Also, you shouldn’t want to listen to Skee-Lo’s “I Wish”.

    • what utter rubbish, plenty of new bands have gotten success themselves using alternative means to the traditional and certainly not through spotify.

      The point here is, since you clearly don’t understand, is that we have a situation where spotify is earning a shit load of money by using material that is not their own and the actual artists get virtually nothing in return because they don’t earn enough money to pay them what they deserve.

      From a promotion point of view, since spotify has a small number of users in the grand scheme of things, means that, the any benefit of notoriety from being of spotify is minimal compared to other alternatives.

      Overall, spotify makes money, the artists get little in return, just ask any artist out their, most would agree behind closed doors.

  9. Funny how Yorke talks about ‘small’ bands being smothered by services like Spotify… like he had any idea of what being in a ‘small’ band is…

    • Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Oct 3rd, 2013 -1

      Atoms for Peace played The Patriot Center at about 1/3 capacity on Monday…

      • actually, it was nearly full, its the only one that hasn’t sold out, pretty good for a new band with little publicity selling out arenas around the world

        • Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Oct 4th, 2013 -1

          I was in that room. If you thought it was nearly full, you must’ve been searching with your good eye closed. I was second row off the floor and the floor wasn’t nearly full. I was also on an aisle and I wanted to be able to stand up and dance without being right in front of other people, so I moved up in my section. Moving up didn’t mean moving to the top row. It meant moving two rows behind the landing at the entryway. There was no one in the row I moved to, no one in the row in front of me, and only two people in the row in front of that, who seemingly also moved back for dancing space. The section I was in wasn’t full, nor was the section on either side of me, nor were the sections directly across from me. Now, I’m not saying that the crowd sucked or the place was empty. (Hell, I’m in a band and I’d love to play to that many people.) But what I was specifically responding to, the idea that Thom Yorke is somehow completely out of touch with what small bands go through just because he’s in Radiohead. He’s also in Atoms for Peace. And you yourself indicated that A4P is a new band with little publicity. If a member of Radiohead and a member of RHCP can create a band that includes a drummer who has toured with Beck and R.E.M. and still be greeted with little publicity, I think that speaks to Thom Yorke’s qualifications…

  10. well thom, we are just going to have to illegally download the SHIT out of your solo albums. I don’t know how else to get them on my computer, which sadly, is how i listen to most of my music. (your music).

    • Yeah, I pretty much agree with this. I think Thom is being really shortsighted about Spotify. It is very possible that Spotify will never pay artists a living wage, but there are always fans, like myself, who use Spotify, download your stuff illegally and then go to your shows and buy the t-shirt and your best albums on vinyl.

      I’m not worried about the big guys, because they’re selling out large venues and getting their songs in commercials and in movie soundtracks. I’m not worried about the little guys, because what they need more than anything early on is exposure. The marketplace is more crowded than ever now, because of the Internet, not despite it. Before the Internet, it was much harder to get out the garage, because without corporate sponsorship you had to physically hand out tapes to promote your band. I’m not saying the Internet makes starting a band easy or something. Obviously, it’s always a long shot and requires talent, dedication and luck. But illegal downloading and Spotify make it easier, not harder, to get your music heard.

    • Seriously, never heard of itunes f.ex ? Get your facts straight before you make ignorant comments like this.

  11. What Thom never addresses is that he actually has a product that people WANT. What about the smaller/new/unknown artists out there? What are they supposed to do?

  12. We all need to assume that Thom is much more well versed than us in things such as digital music distribution, music consumption, etc. That is a given, so arguing otherwise is a waste of time.

    That being said, I don’t think Thom’s beef is necessarily with Spotify, per se, but the way in which humans interact with music these days. In that sense, I kind of agree with him. I am in my mid thirties and still maintain a close relationship with music. I love albums and bands. I am not a fan of the “single” culture that we have created. Digital music is increasingly about the single, not the album. Although Thom has attempted to cross this threshold himself, I do not really think it suits him.

    Spotify is a good service. I am listening to it as I am writing this, but it cannot be ignored that it comes at a non-monetary price (to both us and the artists). The ability to listen to everything, all the time, I buy fewer albums. I am less likely to throw down $15 for a Pinback album when I know I can just listen to it on Spotify when the desire hits. I’ll still buy the new Radiohead album, but even those types of artists are getting smaller. I have always been a huge BTS fan, and I still do not own a physical copy of There Is No Enemy. I hate that about myself. I also hate that I’ve already heard a 3rd of the new Arcade Fire album… I miss ripping open the album and throwing it on for the first time.

    My issues are nostalgia, and I think that is what is driving Thom as well. That, and the thought that – along with nostalgia – he is personally getting screwed financially, which makes it all the worse. He is going to lose the fight, but maybe he knows that… the Charge of the Light Brigade and all of that…

  13. I think Thom is missing something crucial here. As a person that listens to a lot of music I don’t want to deal with the clutter of CDs, Vinyl and other older, traditional forms of music distribution. Additionally, and while hard drives prices are going down and sizes are going, I do not have the patience so manage an ungoldy number of mp3, mp4, flac, wav files, not to mention hard drives failing a loosing files. Spotify is one way for me as a customer to *not* have to deal with that. Amazon’s cloud player as is another option, but with Spotify I can also listen to albums I don’t actually own and I can explore and discover other/new artists.

  14. what does thom mean when he says ” I don’t subscribe to the whole thing that a lot of people do within the music industry that’s ‘well this is all we’ve got left. we’ll just have to do this.’ I just don’t agree.”?

  15. 1. corpses are already dead.
    2. i doubt a corpse would be desperate enough to fart.

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