In July 2013, Thom Yorke pulled his solo album The Eraser and the Atoms For Peace album AMOK off the streaming services Spotify, Rdio, and Deezer. Discussing the decision, Yorke’s producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich said in a statement:
The reason is that new artists get paid fuck all with this model. It’s an equation that just doesn’t work. The music industry is being taken over by the back door and if we don’t try and make it fair for new music producers and artists then the art will suffer.
And Yorke followed that up, first with this tweet:
Make no mistake new artists you discover on #Spotify will no get paid. meanwhile shareholders will shortly being rolling in it. Simples.
— Thom Yorke (@thomyorke) July 14, 2013
And then, at greater length, in an interview:
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 … 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 need you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off … 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.
It would seem Yorke deems Apple Music to be “the important part” — or, at least, important enough. Because all the albums Yorke pulled off those other streaming services (and which were never made available on Tidal) are now available for streaming on Apple Music. And there are more, too, that weren’t included in the initial embargo: not just AMOK and The Eraser, but Yorke’s 2014 album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, and Radiohead’s In Rainbows.
It’s hard to see how this doesn’t directly contradict most of Yorke’s previous statements. Will Apple Music pay higher royalties than Spotify? Maybe, but not substantially higher — not so much higher that it will have any significant effect on the wallets of any “new artists you discover” on the service. Is Apple not “trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process”? Is Zane Lowe a representative of “a direct connection between [the] musician and [the] audience” or is he a holdover from “the old industry”? (Nothing against Zane Lowe! I love Zane Lowe! But the dude worked at the BBC for a decade and a half before coming to Apple Music!)
In any case, this would appear to be a massive coup for Apple Music — it’s not quite as visible as Taylor Swift, but it’s maybe even more significant, because Yorke has spent years experimenting with new distribution models for his music. Who would have imagined he’d wind up signing on with this one?