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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on YouTube: “It’s Like Nazi Art Theft”

December 2, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

Music and the media that we use to experience it has always been in the limelight for some controversy or other. Since the wax cylinders of the 1800s and the humble radio of the 20th Century musicians and those that ultimately control their work have been at odds with each other for decades, if not centuries. The delivery of music has changed dramatically over the past fifty years, from big vinyl discs to smaller digital CDs and now to music we can access over the Internet wherever and whenever we want, and a lot of it for free. No platform has been in the limelight so much recently more than YouTube. With the launch of YouTube Red and YouTube Music it’s no wonder that all eyes are once again on Google’s video streaming service.

In an interview with Italian site Repubblica, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke likened what YouTube does with music to what Nazi’s did with precious works of art during the Second World War. We suppose he “lightens up” a little bit by throwing the British and everyone else in there as well by saying ” Actually, they all did that during the war, the British, too—steal the art from other countries.” Yorke’s reasoning behind his latest comments against digital media are that YouTube makes money off of the ads being served in front of these videos, but that the artist responsible for the work doesn’t get a cut of that, or if they do it’s a scant cut of it. Of course, a lot of that has more to do with the rights holders and what they do with the cut of the ad revenue provided to them by YouTube.

Streaming services such as Spotify have come under fire this year as well for not paying artists enough money, and YouTube has been painting a target on their back with the launch of YouTube Music, a new app that makes it much easier to just consume music with the service, essentially doing away the need to purchase a record in the first place. Yorke and Radiohead have been forward-thinkers where digital media and the Internet is concerned, offering up albums for as much as someone was willing to pay, but ultimately he feels like streaming service and YouTube just don’t pay artists enough for their work.

Whether or not Yorke’s latest words will change anything is unclear, but it is unlikely. YouTube does do some good in the music field as well, and some of the biggest names in mainstream music today have risen to their position with the help of YouTube. it might not pay much, but if people hear your work, then they’ll ultimately want more of it and with an audience comes record deals. Regardless, it looks like Google and YouTube are more than happy to take on both Spotify and Apple Music with their own take on things, no matter what the artists and rights holders think.