Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Now It’s Spotify’s Turn to Get Attacked by Rock Stars

Thom Yorke Radiohead Northfoto : Shutterstock.comIt’s the middle of July. So it’s your turn in the spanking machine, Spotify.

Last month, Pandora took the paddling, when a series of music acts complained publicly and prominently about the payouts they were getting from the streaming service.

Now, Spotify is getting the same treatment, courtesy of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

Yorke announced this weekend that he was taking his solo music off the service, along with a new album from Atoms for Peace, a sorta-supergroup he heads up. (Meanwhile, all of Radiohead’s albums, which Yorke doesn’t control himself, are still available on Spotify.)

Yorke and Nigel Godrich, who is both Radiohead’s producer and a member of Atoms for Peace, took to Twitter to announce/explain/defend their move. The gist: We don’t get paid nearly enough when people listen to our stuff on Spotify, and we wish people still bought albums.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has been responding via Twitter himeself, but in case you don’t want to wade through it, I can summarize.

It’s the same thing Spotify has been saying for a while: We do pay artists, and the numbers are starting to add up. Streaming music doesn’t hurt artists’ revenue streams, and we can help artists by exposing them to new fans. And it’s not our fault the CD business imploded 14 years ago.

Note that this is more or less the same argument Pandora makes when it gets the same kinds of complaints from musicians and/or music owners. And both companies have been hearing it for years, and they’re going to keep hearing it. At least as long as both of them are seen as big companies that have profited (via $3 billion valuations, if not actual profits) from music while musicians struggle.

There is one big difference between Pandora and Spotify, though: With one big exception, Pandora doesn’t negotiate payment deals with artists or labels. It relies on compulsory licenses, which means that it can play any music it wants — Yorke, or Pink Floyd, or whomever, can’t pull their stuff off of Pandora.

But Spotify does strike different deals with different labels. And in the case of some big acts that control their own music, it can work directly with them as well. And those kinds of deals can solve all sorts of problems.

Which is why Lars Ulrich of Metallica, which sued Spotify adviser Sean Parker during his Napster days, was onstage with Parker at a Spotify event last fall. And why he was hanging out with him in the wee hours after that.

(Image courtesy of Northfoto /

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