Yorke Kidding Me: Why Thom Yorke's 'experiment' isn't good news

It just reeks of yet another a marketing strategy.

Today, whilst lecturing my final year BA songwriting students, I discovered that only 50% of my students know who Thom Yorke is.

“Can anyone tell me what has been making the headlines in music related news this week?”

No response.

So I talk my students through the latest “outside the box” marketing strategy - Thom Yorke’s album release through BitTorrent.

In the online blurb there are mentions of “cutting out the gatekeepers” and “allowing anyone (to) do this exactly as we have done".

I have a room full of undergraduates that are about to release their own music into the world. As we sit discussing the pros and cons of this release the same comments continue to ring out. “It’s fine for him, with his millions of fans”; “What would happen to me if I did it this way? No-one would hear it, and no-one would buy it.”

Thom is likely to sell out any venue that he wants to play; he is likely to shift a fair few copies of his vinyl bundle at £30 a pop. So yes, I don’t suppose he really cares if people file share his music peer to peer or bother paying $6 for his album (one of my students had the album but seemingly didn’t realise that you had to pay for it and just downloaded it for free as most people do from BitTorrent).

As a struggling musician and faced with a room full of - new to the market - struggling musicians, I am frustrated yet again by major artists seemingly breaking the mold and yet creating an impossible situation for independent artists.

This is the fourth such release in a year: we have had Beyonce with her album of videos, followed swiftly by Bowie’s "surprise" release - and I am sure we all want to forget the U2 album which arrived uninvited into our iTunes libraries. One rule for them, another for us. And the press lap it up, radio play the album all week, and the new artists with no budgets desperately try to create their own “out of the box” marketing campaigns which we all know cannot compete with the PR of these massive brands.

This is another blow to the viability of poor artists. $6 for an album, which is fine for someone who sells out arenas, but now the value of the “album” is falling once again.

I have massive respect for Thom Yorke as an artist but he has no concept of what it is like to be a struggling musician.

So don’t tell me that you have done this for “other artists” Thom Yorke, because the other artists feel immensely let down by yet another phoney marketing strategy.


Tamara Schlesinger, singer/songwriter of MALKA and formerly of 6 Day Riot, director or Tantrum Records and associate lecturer at The Institute of Contemporary Music.

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