Radiohead’s manager sides with Spotify

on July 16, 2013, 5:54pm

radiohead 2010

Over the last 48 hours, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have been warring with Spotify over what they consider to be unfair royalty payments to artists. On Sunday, Yorke and Godrich removed several of their albums from the streaming music service, arguing that their payout structure was “bad for new music.” Yesterday, Spotify issued a formal response denying these charges, which was quickly countered by Godrich. “I’m not bitching about not getting paid. It’s about standing up for other artists’ rights. It’s up to streaming providers to come back with a better way of supporting new music producers,” Godrich contended.

Now, in a rather unexpected twist to the story, Radiohead’s manager Brian Message has come out in support of Spotify. In an interview with BBC Radio’s Newshour, Message said, “I think myself and a whole range of managers look at new technology developments such as Spotify as a good thing. The Internet is a really cutting edge way of fans and artists to communicate with each other and we want to see that opportunity develop and evolve. Streaming services are a new way for artists and fans to engage.”

The rest of his comments, transcribed by Pigeons and Planes:

“As a manager of Thom I obviously sit up and take note when he says, ‘Listen guys we need to look at how this works.’ It’s a healthy debate that’s going on right now. He’s rightly asking the question of, ‘What’s in this for new music and new artists?’ I think we’re all debating this. [But] as the model gets bigger I think we’ll find a place where artists and managers and all creators can all receive what they regard as equitable remuneration.

“It’s not black and white, it’s a complicated area. There’s been over 20 attempted reviews of Copyright and how it operates in the internet era, and there’s been no satisfactory solution to it. The bottom line is, technology is here to stay, and evolution of technology is always going to go on. It’s up to me as a manager to work with the likes of Spotify and other streaming services to best facilitate how we monetize those [platforms] for the artists we represent. It’s not easy but it’s great to have the dialogue.”

FWIW: Most of Radiohead’s back catalog still remains available on Spotify, including 2011’s The King of Limbs, which was self-released by the band. (2007’s In Rainbows has never been available on Spotify, but is available on other streaming music services.)

Below, watch the latest episode of Rock It Out! Blog where host Sami Jarroush discusses the ongoing controversy:


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July 17, 2013 at 9:15 pm

One thing I haven’t heard mentioned from the bands is revenues generated by things like “related artists” sections or in pandoras case songs played on radio stations by bands I was not earlier aware of, I do not pay for Spotify or pandora but I do regularly buy records, and sometimes those records are by bands I discovered through streaming services. I know in this day and age I am in the minority when it comes to still buying music you can actually hold in your hands but it is a revenue stream nonetheless.

July 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

That’s not exactly a ringing stance of support for Spotify against Thom, now is it? Let’s be honest.

July 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

I used to work for a major record label. This is a very complicated topic. Major record labels used to make a ton of money, and then seemingly overnight, they didn’t. Understandably, that was disturbing to record execs, which is why they’re continuing to hold on to as many profits as possible (which is still so much less than it used to be). Anyway, it’s kind of hard to suggest a better business model without knowing the exact financials of Spotify. My educated guess is that Spotify ingests money from two main sources: advertising and paid subscribers. I kind of think that Spotify should rely less on advertising income, and try something different to force people to pay for subscriptions. So, for example, maybe Thom Yorke agrees to make Atoms for Peace available for paid subscribers, but not available for free Spotify users who have to view advertising. I don’t know what percentage of Spotify’s catalog should only be available to paid subscribers. I think that would be complicated to figure out, but there is a “sweet spot” percentage. You’d have to include enough desired catalog in the “subscription-only” bucket to really motivate the masses to be compelled to pay. Now, this inevitably means that Spotify would get less ad revenue b/c less people would be viewing advertising because more people would be paying for advertising-free subscriptions. So, that’s why I say I’d have to know Spotify’s financials in order to figure out how much Spotify can afford to lose in advertising revenue vs. how much revenue Spotify would gain by increased paid subscriptions, and exactly how much more the latter would be, and if that would even be enough to make a difference to artists. My point is, the current model doesn’t seem to be working for artists (unless either Spotify, or the record labels, or both, decide to take less of a cut for themselves, which isn’t going to happen). So, I’m only suggesting that something is going to have to change at some point, and my above idea is just one of many possibilities. I’ll also add that Spotify even offering free ad-supported music is detrimental to the streaming model as a whole b/c other services like Rhapsody don’t offer a free ad-supported option. So, that inconsistency is problematic WITHIN the streaming services industry. Also, there’s so much catalog already at all the streaming services, that it doesn’t really make sense for anyone to really pull their catalog at this point (which is why, I suspect, Radiohead didn’t pull any of their albums, and that Thom Yorke only did this relatively minor symbolic gesture). You’d have to have several major artists join forces and pull their stuff (which isn’t entirely up to them, b/c they have to answer to record labels too) to make a difference. That seems unlikely to happen, so as you can see, Spotify has a lot of leverage right now. Anyway, like I said, it’s complicated…

July 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Pandora offers a free, ad-supported model. And with their play limit of hours per month, and a subscription cost of $3.99, I just signed up. So apparently they did something right.


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