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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills


Ah yes, the 'something for nothing' culture. I forget exactly who George Osborne had in mind when he used that phrase. No doubt he was attacking people who have been the beneficiaries of lucrative trust funds. It's always seemed odd that the multi-millionaire heir apparent to a baronetcy whose father-in-law is a lord should also be a man whose heart overflows with compassion for the poorest and most vulnerable, yet is filled with nothing but bile and contempt for the wealthy and powerful.

Anyway, you can hardly blame rich people for enjoying getting something for nothing - we all love a bit of that. Take my Spotify account - I've been listening to music for free for years now. Admittedly, it has meant being subjected to more adverts for British Gas than is possibly allowable under European human rights legislation, but at least that gives me something to talk about with my psychotherapist.

While celebrating the music streaming site's fifth birthday in the appropriate fashion by drinking a glass of wine and pausing after every two sips to down a nip of sump oil, I came across a brace of articles involving two of my favourite musical artistes of all time (yes, I do mean all time, so I'm including all those great Neolithic bands as well as musicians from the distant future).

In the first, an interview with Thom Yorke on the Mexican Sopitas website ( - Spanish only), he described Spotify as 'the last gasp of the old industry' and railed against the company's self-appointed position as gatekeeper between musicians and listeners, which he claimed was fundamentally bad for both.

In the second, a comment piece in the Guardian by David Byrne, the erstwhile Talking Head picks up on Yorke's disaffection (both men have withdrawn as much of their material from Spotify as possible) and contends that the internet 'will suck all creative content out of the world' because those creating the content aren't being paid fairly for doing so.

The figures are jaw-dropping. Although Spotify is valued at £1.9bn and has handed over large amounts to record labels, the sums going to performers are risible. Imagine you're in a band and your latest single has just achieved 50,000 plays on Spotify in a month. Congratulations! Do write in to tell us how each band member spent the £2.25 they received in recompense. A solo artiste aiming to earn the UK's national minimum wage would have to clock up 5.9m plays. Good luck with that. If Spotify made such derisory payments to sweatshop workers, there would be outrage from people who believe, like Jesus, that the labourer is worthy of his/her wages.

'It's like this mind trick going on, people are like "with technology, it's all going to become one in the cloud and all creativity is going to become one thing and no one is going to get paid and it's this big super intelligent thing". Bullshit,' Yorke concludes, borrowing a phrase from St Paul.