Thom Yorke has form railing against digital music streaming platforms, but this time he’s gone one louder.
In 2013, Yorke set his ire on Spotify. He accused the Swedish service of failing to properly remunerate artists, lambasted the major labels’ stakeholding in the business and famously called Daniel Ek’s firm “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.
(A corpse cannot be dying, Thom, you cryptically challenged crusader.)
This week, Yorke aimed his guns at YouTube, and the verbal result is quite something.
Speaking to Italian newspaper Repubblica, Yorke was innocently asked how he listened to music these days.
The Radiohead and Atoms For Peace frontman commented that he mainly used Boomkat, the online electronica specialist retailer. Good taste.
But he didn’t stop there.
“I don’t use YouTube, that’s for sure,” Yorke pointedly stated.
(What you can hear, dear reader, is a metaphorical door beginning to creak open under the weight of a tidal wave of righteous anger.)
Yorke then noted that YouTube had figuratively been saying “that’s not fair!” to the use of ad-blocking software on its service.
“YouTube has seized control of [art] – it’s like what the NazIs did during the second world war.”
He continued: “They put ads before everything, making big money and artists don’t get paid – or don’t get paid enough – and that’s fine, apparently. [But] if they don’t get profit from [ad-blocking] then no, it’s not fair…”
Staying on the topic of YouTube, Yorke was then asked how musicians mainly make their income these days across concerts, streaming, download, physical music sales and broadcast licensing.
It was here that Yorke really began to ‘hit his stride’.
“I don’t know, you tell me,” he replied. “I don’t have a solution for these problems. I just know [YouTube] makes money [from] the work of so many artists that don’t make any profit.
“They keep saying that this is an era where music is free, where cinema is free. Not true. The makers of these services make money. Google, Youtube; a huge amount of money, trawling like in the the ocean, taking everything there is. ‘Oh sorry, was that yours? Now it’s ours. No, no just kidding – it’s still yours’.
“They’ve seized control of [art] – it’s like what the Nazis did during the Second World War. Actually, it’s like what everyone was doing during that war, even the English – stealing the art of other countries.
“What difference is there?”
The answer to that question ultimately comes down to how you feel about a digital cloud-based video site being directly compared to one of the most evil and murderous regimes that ever rose to power.
Wherever your view falls on that line, we can surely all agree that Mr. Yorke’s description of YouTube can be branded ‘strong’ – although, to be clear, he is likening YouTube’s supposed theft of art to the Nazis, rather than any specific genocidal intentions.
(The above has obviously been translated into Italian and then back again into English, leaving some room for error. But if there’s one thing you can give the Nazis, it’s choosing a name that can’t easily be mis-translated around the world.)
Yorke admitted that whenever he considers the devaluation of music in the digital age, it “give[s] me a massive f*cking headache”.
“I pulled out all my vinyl collection recently,” he added. “With every single vinyl there’s some relationship… [That] doesn’t exist with USB and digital. [Digital] is having a corrosive effect on music.
“My 14-year-old son read [David] Byrne’s book [on the music industry] and he told me: ‘Why don’t you read this too? it might interest you’.
“When Byrne [argued] against Spotify, it was a relief. ‘Ah, finally. I’m not the only one to say that it’s not right that it works that way.'”Music Business Worldwide