A new Radiohead album must mean a new “war” with Spotify.
As soon as A Moon Shaped Pool was made available on Sunday evening, there was much furrowing of brows, chewing of pencils and alighting on the same point – that it wasn’t available on Spotify. Apart from the first two singles. So, in fact, 18% of the album is on Spotify. But ignore that: the whole album isn’t on Spotify and, as with everything Radiohead do, this immediately took on colossal import.
“In an affirmation of its principles, Radiohead boycotted leading streaming service Spotify,” trumpeted the Daily Mail. “Radiohead blackball Spotify,” thundered Music Business Worldwide, adding a personal twist: “Thom Yorke just got his own back on Spotify.”
All of this stems from Yorke pulling the Atoms for Peace album from Spotify (and other streaming services) in 2013, and then calling Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse” in an interview with the Mexican website Sopitas. It is a quote that will haunt Yorke until his own final anal emission and has become the frame in which every subsequent story about him and streaming is presented.
There is a reductive narrative being conveyed here. As with the continual recycling of the Blur/Oasis “battle” from two decades ago, there is a keenness to dial up the truculence. In one corner is Thom “Smasher” Yorke from Oxford. In the other corner is Daniel “Crusher” Ek from Stockholm. They are not just fighting each other, they are fighting for the very future of the music industry. Or something. It’s akin to the sketch from The Day Today in which Chris Morris goads the Australian foreign secretary and a minister from the British Foreign Office into military action over a trade disagreement. “That’s it!” Morris roars, relishing the imminent conflict. “Yes! It’s war!”
Except in this case, it’s not a war. It’s not even a playground dust-up. It’s a band, as is their right, choosing where to put their music. For now, A Moon Shaped Pool is only available to stream on Apple Music and Tidal, two services that recently locked down exclusives with, respectively, Drake and Beyoncé. So the Radiohead album is only a semi-exclusive. All of the band’s other albums, with the exception of In Rainbows, are on Spotify, so that confuses their “principles” somewhat. It’s less of a blackball and more of a very light grey or hard to distinguish from white-ball.