When Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke expresses an opinion about the music industry, it's worth listening. His band, after all, pioneered the "pay what you want" model for major artists selling music online (a model that has since spread to the masses on sites like Bandcamp.com). So when he told an interviewer that the record industry was going to "completely fold" in the coming months, people took note.
"It's simply a matter of time - months rather than years - before the music business establishment completely folds," said Yorke. Speaking to the author of a British textbook, he also gave advice to current musicians. "When the corporate industry dies it will be no great loss to the world. So, I guess I would say, don't tie yourself to the sinking ship because, believe me, it's sinking."
Yorke doesn't split hairs, which a number of music writers are faulting him for. Still, his remarks provoked a discussion on the wobbling foundations of the record industry.
- York Is Dead On, writes Tom McGregor at The Dallas Blog: "For decades, major labels raked in billions of dollars from the music industry. now, the tide is turning and major labels appear on the brink of financial collapse. The music industry failed to embrace the Internet and now it's paying the price for the poor business decision." Andrew Oda at CD Insight adds, "Yorke really hasn't been wrong about these things. With ideas so radically innovative in terms of music and it's business, he has been ahead of his time. So, with that said, let's toast to the music industry. RIP."
- What About Independent Labels? asks Mike Conklin at L Magazine: "He fails yet again to acknowledge that there is an option that falls between signing a contract with a... major label and simply releasing your own music on your own dime: independent labels. You know, the ones that let their artists do what they want to do, don't exploit them, work out fair financial deals with them, genuinely care about their well-being as musicians and as people, and increasingly, now more than ever, have the potential to launch extremely successful careers. Ask Vampire Weekend, The National, Broken Social Scene, Joanna Newsom etc."
- The Clock Is Ticking, writes the Soda Head Music staff: "Radiohead has openly distanced themselves from the music industry since leaving EMI in 2007... Other artists, such as Nine Inch Nails and Weezer, quickly followed suit with free independent downloads, and lately it seems like everyone from Eminem to Paul McCartney is expressing their dissatisfaction with record labels and the music industry in general."
- We Get It, The Industry Is Dying: But What Do Young Artists Do? asks Nick Neyland at Prefix Magazine: "Unfortunately, Yorke seemingly forgot to hand out any practical advice on what aspiring musicians should do if they want to avoid the "sinking ship." The music industry is certainly tanking, but it's such a well-established viewpoint now that it serves no purpose to go over it again and again. What we need now are practical solutions for new musicians."
What do you think? Is Yorke wrong?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.