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Radiohead Frontman Predicts Imminent Demise of Record Industry

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Posted on Jun 9, 2010
Wikimedia Commons / Hero of sorts

You’re on notice, music industry: Thom Yorke can see the end from here.

If his music is any indication, Thom Yorke’s not exactly possessed of the most optimistic mind-set, but the Radiohead singer may be onto something when he says that the record industry as we know it is about to implode. The Atlantic Wire does some reality-testing on this thesis in a Wednesday dispatch.  —KA

The Atlantic Wire:

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 So when he told an interviewer that the record industry was going to “completely fold” in the coming months, people took note.

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By spankeedoodle, September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a 15 year old chick that LOOOOVES old school and i soo agree wit wat
most o’ yall say mordern music is SHIT!!

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By samosamo, June 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment


By RAE, June 10 at 7:26 pm #

““Whatever monopoly the recording industry might have had in
past is dead and buried today. Technology, alas, has made it
possible for almost anyone with a few hundred dollars to cobble
together a “recording studio” and “cut an album.” And clearly
thousands think that’s all you need to be a star.”“

Your first sentence is over ambitious because of the nature of
our, u.s.a.‘s, economics which is not based on fairness and
competition but on crushing and killing the competition and
that is what the terms ‘vertical integration’ and horizontal
integration’  sort of makes the antitrust laws irrelevant because
either of the 2 create monopoly owners where the the few or
owners own every part of the businesses that it takes to create a
product, natural resources, warehouses, studios, print and press
machinery, distribution and collection; where horizontal
integration are a business like microsoft that have sole ownship
of at least pc’s. And believe me, they still have a pretty strong
hold on those.

Yes, you could build a studio, record even print and press the
disks and offer them for sale or just the songs from some web
site, but if there was a ‘popular’ group that has a hit, the big
boys come along and buy out the studio, lock stock, rights and
all. So your second part is true but for minimal rewards.

As for anacrisse, I agree with him/her:

“The current state of the recording industry has very little to do
with music quality; it has to do with industrial conditions of
recording, publication and distribution.”“

Because I grew with what I liked and the more years that went
by I just really became discouraged with what I heard and what
constituted music and it has all become so much sordid
commercial crap that is basically telling you that if it isn’t heard
on CLEAR CHANNEL then, it ain’t good. What I listen too are the
few people I believe in as musicians, from plain ole mississippi
fred mcdowell to roy harper to julian bream and most of the old
english rock groups.

And for the world today I think King Crimson’s ‘In the Court of
the Crimson King’ is just as apt as it was 41 years ago for me.

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RAE's avatar

By RAE, June 10, 2010 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

Hey there, Anarcissie… you’ve perplexed me.

Whatever monopoly the recording industry might have had in past is dead and buried today. Technology, alas, has made it possible for almost anyone with a few hundred dollars to cobble together a “recording studio” and “cut an album.” And clearly thousands think that’s all you need to be a star.

It never occurs to them that it takes an ARTIST to successfully marry lyrics and music so that the end product not only has a STORY with a beginning, middle and end, but a suitable and memorable MELODY to carry it.

Free and almost unintelligible/inaudible “verse” paired with a relentless thumping on whatever passes for a drum and bass accompanied by some far-too-loud incompetents stroking away on the only four chords they know on out-of-tune, distorted guitars… IS NOT MUSIC… to my ears anyway.

The “industry” cannot possibly be making any money on this crap from the vast majority of today’s “recording artists” (a misnomer if ever there was one.) It’s my information that the “industry” doesn’t lose any either… every step in the contract between “label” and “artist,” UNTIL ALL COSTS ARE RECOUPED, are paid, one way or another, by the ARTIST. So no wonder there are thousands of CDs available, one per “artist,” on the shelves… the “industry” puts them out on the off chance that ONE of them just might catch fire. Since they aren’t going to lose anything on the rest… why not?

For every singer/songwriter/musician who makes a living from his/her art there must be a thousand whose egos get them involved in a fruitless struggle for stardom by putting together an “album” that is one collosal flop. Once all your relatives have bought one, then what?

For every Sarah Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Yo-yo Mah, there are 10,000 “also rans” whose “talent” is so common that they’d be lucky if the local church choir or Legion band would let them join. But that sure doesn’t stop them from trying to hit the big time. Most of them eventually give up their dream to get a day job to pay back their whopping debt to the “industry.”

I don’t know what the answer is. We’ve all heard the stories where a huge talent was told by some promoter that they’d never make it. And no one wants to “rain on someone’s parade” before they even get started in the business. But SOMEONE needs to sit these kids down and tell them the truth. UNLESS THEY HAVE SOME CREATIVE/PERFORMING TALENT THAT IS UNIQUE and APPEALING… and OBVIOUS… they’re in for a rude awakening. I don’t care what “music” they produce… it had better grab my attention and involve me with it’s passion and exquisite presentation… or it goes straight into the shredder. And these days, that’s 99 out of every 100 CDs on the market.

I truly resent having my time wasted trying to find a reason why some radio station is playing some tuneless “tune.”

My opinion, of course.

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By samosamo, June 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment



Real musical talent should not have a worry but that the
dumbstream of america have been so taken in on ‘partial’ music,
sound bites of someones favorite songs, then the stage is set
for that format, which thank the lucky stars I never even
bothered with ipod and all the cute little tidbits they play over
and over. And if this could possibly be a way to bankrupt and
end CLEAR CHANNEL, I am all for it.

But this potential ‘implode’ is very illustrative of what the music
monopolies are about with their vertical integration and
horizontal integations which is illustrative of total complete
monopoly of all aspects of a musician creating a piece of music
to the end where the money is collected and ‘disbursed’ to the
various leeches taking their cuts.

And this hopefully would mean an end to such a farce as
american idol with all its pomp and emptiness which the msm,
as big and illegal monopoly that there is, will still continue to
dwell on such waste of time bull shit for ‘news’ which is the feed
bin of which the dumbstream americans live off of every time it

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, June 10, 2010 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

The current state of the recording industry has very little to do with music quality; it has to do with industrial conditions of recording, publication and distribution.

The recording industry has no choice: if they want to continue to have a situation in which a few people can make a great deal of money, they have to preserve scarcity through monopoly enforced by state power.  This is what they have been trying to do; but it is very difficult to fight for long against advancing technology no matter how many congresspersons, judges and lawyers you own.

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photoshock's avatar

By photoshock, June 10, 2010 at 7:14 am Link to this comment

I, too am old enough to remember the ‘good ol’ days.’
When I see the so-called talent these days I wonder if the recording industry is actually alive and well and living on planet earth.
Gone are the times when there were real musicians and true lyricists, along with the radio stations who would play real music. I live in an area where there are only three kinds of music played, rock-a-billy country, oldies, and ‘christian’ music. No one station plays any modern and up-to-date music.
No songs of protest about the oligarchy and their misuse of the airwaves exist. Music and the musicians
used to use their platform for good not self-aggrandizement as most of today’s performers do.
There is a dearth of protest music and its followers,
this is mainly because the people who sponsor the music played on the air are corporate shills, who do their masters bidding. Avarice and worship of the musicians has become a way of life for the listening public. Everybody wants their slice of the pie and the pie is smaller than yesteryears.
Gone are the Pete Seegers, Woody Guthries and others who stood among the people and wrote of the pain of living and dying in America. Even Jimmy Buffet, the so-called ‘man of Key West’ has gone corporate, with Margaritaville’s, owning one of the South’s most profitable franchises, Krispy Kreme, and other ventures of questionable character that only enhance his pocketbook.
Look to the future of music, the internet, where getting your songs and music can be done at little or no cost to the consumer. Or more appropriately, start making your own music, recording it for the whole world to see, without charge and spread the message everywhere, we the people are not owned like sheeple, but thinking, breathing living examples of character and compassion.

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, June 10, 2010 at 5:12 am Link to this comment

Don’t walk the plank like I did
You will be dispensed with
When you’ve become inconvenient

Upon Harrowdown Hill
Near where you used to go to school
That’s where I am
That’s where I’m lying down

- Thom Yorke, “Harrowdown Hill”

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By oceanic, June 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ever since the nashville sound became country music, ever since acid rock was replaced by disco, and a national consortium took over radio,
actual music by actual people made no airtime.

Looks like these things wax and wane and soon the net will give real music a podium.

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RAE's avatar

By RAE, June 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment

Whatever other reasons may be behind the posited “implode” it is my view the MAIN one is that the vast majority of what is recorded isn’t worth the electrons to do it, let alone anyone’s time to listen to it.

I feel so sorry for those few special talents who actually can sing or play. What an uphill battle to even get yourself heard over the cacophony of mediocrity that passes for “music” these days.

And please don’t just dismiss my complaints as typical for those “over the hill.” I LOVE to listen to modern music when whoever is singing or playing KNOWS HOW TO SING (hell, I’ll settle for carry a tune)OR PLAY (hell, I’ll settle for anyone who knows more than four chords and how to use the distort wand). SO FEW DO. 99% of songwriting… ISN’T.

The sooner the “record industry” collapses the better. Those running those empires are nothing but leeches anyway.

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