Radiohead’s Yorke pulls music from Spotify, Rdio, citing lack of support for new artists

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There has been a lot of chatter — and debate — recently about the royalties offered by  streaming music services, most notably an open letter written by the members of Pink Floyd that criticized the rates paid by Pandora. Now, Spotify and Rdio have joined the fray, as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and producer Niger Godrich pulled music from both services over the weekend.

Both Yorke and Godrich took to Twitter to explain the decision, which affects Yorke’s solo album The Eraser, their collaborative project Atoms for Peace, and the first album of Godrich’s band Ultraísta:

Yorke and Godrich say the services undercut independent and up-and-coming artists in order to take better care of shareholders, record labels and bigger artists. Spotify says it has paid out $500 million in the last three years to the music business (that includes the labels, the artists, etc.), but stresses that royalties are based on popularity.

“We will pay out approximately 2% of our gross royalties for an artist whose music represents approximately 2% of what our users stream,” the FAQ says.

The company also sent a statement to TechCrunch this morning defending their policies, and that it’s all part of a “long term project” to bring more money to independent artists by devoting its money to “nurturing new talent and producing great new music.”

“We’re 100% committed to making Spotify the most artist-friendly music service possible, and are constantly talking to artists and managers about how Spotify can help build their careers,” the statement says.

While Spotify continues to stress that this system helps independent artists make more money from a single song than they would from direct album sales, neither Godrich nor Yorke believe it.

Radiohead, which has sold tens of millions of records over the years, has also been something of a pioneer with its business model. It self-released one of its albums, In Rainbows, in 2007 as a digital download, and asked customers to set their own price.

While Yorke’s music has been pulled from Spotify and Rdio, the records can still be found for streaming on Pandora — which has fought back against the charges of underpaying independent artists — and are still sold on iTunes and Google Play. Radiohead’s discography, meanwhile, remains available everywhere. It’s a small and highly targeted move that some of Yorke’s fans have criticized for its narrow scope, but the indie artist feels differently.

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