Radiohead's Thom Yorke Pulls Songs From Spotify as Artists Fight For 'Leverage'

July 15, 2013

Streaming music services such as Pandora and Spotify promise a seemingly limitless song selection for listeners and actual royalties for artists. But amid growing complaints from artists that the Internet music services are hardly ideal for their bottom line, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has become the best-known artist to pull his music from Spotify.

Yorke yanked his band Atoms For Peace’s album, along with his 2006 solo album “The Eraser,” from the site. Radiohead’s longtime producer and a Yorke collaborator, Nigel Godrich, has joined the crusade. Radiohead’s own music still appears on Spotify. On Sunday, Yorke tweeted an explanation his arguments: “Make no mistake new artists you discover on #Spotify will no get paid. meanwhile shareholders will shortly being rolling in it. Simples.”

Under this new dynamic, the issue really is about leverage, said Casey Rae, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition. “The frustration is a lot of musicians feel they don’t have a say in this stuff,” Rae said. While he said he’s unsure what impact Yorke’s decision will have, “Anybody who is working toward that goal of getting more artists to have any leverage in this environment deserves a high five.”

Spotify is beholden to shareholders — not music, said Rae. While Spotify may help artists reach listeners online, “the average musician has zero leverage over terms of compensation.