Women in Music 2016

Thom Yorke Compares YouTube Practices to Nazi War Plundering

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Thom Yorke performs on day 3 of Latitude Festival at Henham Park Estate on July 18, 2015 in Southwold, England. 

Thom Yorke went for the jugular in a new interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, where the Radiohead frontman ardently discussed the YouTube practice of placing ads before content. The Guardian has reported segments of the interview in which Yorke, who claims he "definitely doesn't use YouTube," describes how the site has "seized control" of art to turn a profit, at the expense of the artists. When asked how musicians can circumvent this practice to still make money, he dug deep into a World War II analogy that compared YouTube and parent company Google to Nazi Germany.

"I don’t have the solution to these problems. I only know that they’re making money with the work of loads of artists who don’t get any benefit from it. People continue to say that this is an era where music is free, cinema is free. It’s not true. The creators of services make money -- Google, YouTube. A huge amount of money, by trawling, like in the sea – they take everything there is. ‘Oh, sorry, was that yours? Now it’s ours. No, no, we’re joking – it’s still yours’. They’ve seized control of it -- it’s like what the Nazis did during the second world war. Actually, it’s like what everyone was doing during the war, even the English -- stealing the art of other countries. What difference is there?"

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He also told the paper that a friend suggested he use an app to block ads on videos, and cried hypocrisy at YouTube's objection to such apps. "They say it’s not fair -- the people who put adverts in front of any piece of content, making a load of money," he says, "while artists don’t get paid or are paid laughable amounts -- and that seems fine to them. But if [YouTube] don’t get a profit out of it, it’s not fair."

Not one to mince words, especially regarding the challenges facing musicians in today's digital age, Yorke had previously told The Guardian back in 2013 that streaming service Spotify was "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse." Referring to them as "gatekeepers to the whole process," he insisted, "we don't need you to do it. No artist needs you to do it." 

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On a more optimistic note, the English rocker was just in London this past weekend performing a DJ set for the People's March For Climate, organized by Greenpeace UK. The United Nations Climate Change Conference began Monday in Paris; Yorke was one of several notable musicians (along with BjörkDavid Bowie and Damon Albarn) who signed an open letter to the conference's leaders urging them to reach a deal. Saving the earth would at least be a nice silver lining to society's digital downward spiral.