Flowers; and Why Thom Yorke Misses The (Decimal) Point

flowersThom Yorke, a man who now has enough money in the bank to dress like a tramp and not be pointed at in the street, has made a number of bilious claims about Spotify, and how it doesn’t help new artists at all, but that the shareholders are rolling in it.


Thom’s right, of course. If you’re a new artist, and get a couple of thousand streams, yep –  you’ll get paid in pennies.

But wait – really – what did anyone expect? Something that’d pay the mortgage? And are we surprised that a business is paying its shareholders a dividend?

And, more importantly – what is one streamed payment *worth* anyway? Does it equate to one play on a radio show, for instance?

Let’s pretend there’s a new group called Band X, and let’s assume their single, Song X, is streamed 1000 times on Spotify.

Now let’s be more generous, and assume that means this song is streamed one time to 1000 different people. Does this equate to this song being played on a specialist radio show – with an audience designed to be receptive to their music – to 1000 listeners?

It seems to me that it kind-of does. And if I was in a band, and had my song played on a radio station with 1000 listeners, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of recompense.

Of course, in reality, this 1000 imaginary Spotify plays will include some people who played the same song 10 times, some people who listened to part of the song and then clicked away out of boredom, and some people who were listening to a playlist but were out of the room taking the rubbish out to the dustbin at the time, and so didn’t hear it at all.

This new reality isn’t too far, of course, from the iPod investment-shifting phenomenon, where the device used to play the music becomes much more expensive than previously (compare the price of a Walkman to an iPod) and the music shifts from expensive (CD LPs used to be £15) to almost nothing (Spotify pays an average of less than ha’penny a stream.

So what does Thom Yorke, a man who made many of his zillions from selling music when it was its most expensive ever – the musical equivalent of someone who made their money on selling property in the mid noughties – propose as a better system? If new bands were to follow his band’s most famous example, they would offer their music on a pay-what-you-like basis, which – oh – is what most bands are doing already.

Nope, Thom – it doesn’t feel right that new bands get paid fuck all. But railing at Spotify is missing the point. Us, the music-buying public, needs to be able to trust that we can start paying for music again without feeling that someone is getting ripped off first.

Hey, sorry Flowers, for burying you under all of that blah. But – whoah, here’s a band who are making money the new way, by playing gigs, and releasing stuff through small labels and building from the ground up. You can buy their nice songs from Bandcamp, if you like. Thom’d like that.

Flowers are a good new band. They make fuzzy lo-fi guitar pop for reasons other than it’s giving them an opportunity to toss their fringes and pose for moody black and white photos.

You can tell by how When You Lie, that this is just how they want their music to sound. How do I know? Well, it’s just a feeling. You know, the stuff music is supposed to inspire. This is nice stuff. Good luck, Flowers. Hope Spotify makes all your dreams come true.

NB: Flowers are appearing at LodeStar festival on the 30th August –


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