Thom Yorke: YouTube has ‘seized control’ of music

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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has delivered another blistering attack on the music industry and the “laughable amounts” services like YouTube pay to artists.

Yorke has previously singled out Spotify as an example of a service which does not adequately compensate musicians for their work, but in an interview with La Repubblica said that YouTube had effectively taken ownership of an entire culture.

“People continue to say that this is an era where music is free, cinema is free,” Yorke told the Italian newspaper. “It’s not true. The creators of services make money — Google, YouTube. A huge amount of money, by trawling, like in the sea — they take everything there is.”

“Oh, sorry, was that yours? Now it’s ours. No, no, we’re joking — it’s still yours’. They’ve seized control of it — it’s like what the Nazis did during the Second World War. Actually, it’s like what everyone was doing during the war, even the English — stealing the art of other countries. What difference is there?”

Yorke also criticised YouTube for claiming services like AdBlocker were unfair to tech companies and their advertising sales, when — in his opinion — “artists don’t get paid or are paid laughable amounts — and that seems fine to them”. Yorke said instead that he listens to music through Boomkat, a paid music site.

YouTube, Spotify and other services with a stake in the technology of music continue to claim that they pay artists fairly for their work. YouTube recently launched a paid subscription service in the United States to give it a source of revenue separate to advertising.

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Brian Message, Radiohead’s manager and a veteran of the industry, recently said that it remained a “great time for creators” even as artists were unable to rely on revenues from music sales.

Speaking at WIRED 2015 at Tobacco Dock, Message said that “we’re moving out of an old world into a new, dynamic world where creators have the opportunity to be their own business”.

Asked at WIRED about Yorke’s previous description of Spotify as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse” — Message said that he disagreed. “Thom’s issue was that the pipe has become so jammed,” he said — though noting that Spotify pays 70 percent of its revenue back to the music industry. “We encourage all of our artists to take a long term approach,” he said.

“Plan for the long term, understand that it’s a tough game. Find your team players, choose them carefully, and stick with them even things are not going so well.”

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