Thom Yorke: YouTube & Google seize music & it’s ‘like what the Nazis did’


I’ve always thought: “Yeah, Thom Yorke, there’s a guy who doesn’t give a crap about anything.” In a good way, obviously. Meaning that Thom Yorke – the lead singer of Radiohead – simply seemed concerned about making his music and beyond that, he couldn’t care less about the hoopla/celebrity/fame game. But in reality, Thom does care about stuff beyond music. He’s got a lot of political and socioeconomic theories, thoughts and opinions. He seems like a very politically liberal guy, actually. So isn’t it interesting that Thom Yorke has something in common with… Taylor Swift? Taylor became the poster girl for “musical artists standing up for their right to get paid” when she took on Spotify (she pulled all of her music from Spotify last year) and Apple (she sent Apple Music an open letter demanding they pay artists for Apple’s streaming service). Now Thom Yorke is going further than Swifty ever dreamed: Yorke is comparing Google & YouTube to the Nazis. Paging Godwin’s Law!

Thom Yorke recently conducted an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. During the chat, the Guardian reports, the Radiohead frontman said YouTube and parent company Google had “seized control” of art, then compared their commercial paradigms to Nazi Germany’s history of plundering art. (Yorke’s slung some harsh words against fellow tech giant Spotify in the past, as well.) Asked how musicians can profit from their music, Yorke responded:

“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?”

Yorke added that he uses Boomkat to discover music, and has installed an app to block YouTube ads. “The funny thing is that YouTube has said ‘that’s not fair’ [to AdBlocker],” he said. “You know? They say it’s not fair – the people who put adverts in front of any piece of content, making a load of money, 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.”

[From Pitchfork]

If you read Italian, you can read Thom’s full interview here. Thom’s not wrong, although I think he threw down the Nazi analogy a little too quickly. I should also point out that I don’t think it’s about the money for Thom or any of the Radiohead guys. For Thom in particular, is seems about the principle of the matter, and how he wants to use his platform to speak for the truly struggling artists who need the small amount of money that they get from streaming or YouTube. Which is not unlike Taylor Swift’s position too – she’s always defended the principle of paying artists for music because she wants to stand up for the smaller artists as well. Thom and Swifty are both the kind of artists who make the bulk of their income from touring and merchandise anyway, not from streaming, album sales, etc. So… does Thom have a point? Or were you blinded by the Nazi analogy?

PS… God help me, I would hit it. I would hit it so hard. I have a very animal attraction to Thom Yorke. I can’t really explain it.

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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59 Responses to “Thom Yorke: YouTube & Google seize music & it’s ‘like what the Nazis did’”

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  1. Sumodo1 says:

    Thom Yorke looks like he’s lost his mind.

  2. TheSageM says:

    Sigh – I also used to fancy Thom Yorke like crazy… until he became a cliche, left his long term partner and now has a much younger girlfriend.

    • kai says:

      I haven’theard about the girlfriend. Who’s the girlfriend? Please don’T tell me he’s dating a 22-years old “model” :-/

    • Wilma says:

      That sucks, didn’t think he would be one to go down the Johnny Depp route.

    • GingerCrunch says:


    • frivolity says:

      Oh, man! I hadn’t heard that. So, he went the Eddie Vedder route, huh?

    • kai says:

      He and his ex got together in their early 20s and were together for over 20 years. I don’t think it’s a big deal that they split. It happens. I’ll believe the “much younger girlfriend” thing when I see it, but Thom Yorke gets away with a lot. He can dress up like a hipster and draw stupid Nazi comparisons, it’s ok. He’d have to committ some crimes a la Cosby for me not to love him anymore.

    • frivolity says:


    • TheSageM says:

      OK so I will name my sources. This article from the DM announces the split, which is common knowledge at this point.

      Now, if you look through the comments, two people spotted him in Ravello, Italy with a “much younger” and “very attractive” woman. I’ve seen other similar comments on the web, but these were the two I could track down again.

      • Rose says:

        I remember seeing a photo of Thom at a coffee shop in LA with a much younger woman on Tumblr. This was mere days before he confirmed his separation with Rachel. It all makes sense now.

    • Kitten says:

      File under “Things I Don’t Want to Know About My Faves.”

    • Arpeggi says:

      What? Nooooo!!! While I had a huge crush on Yorke in my teens (and on Ed, and Jonny, I mean, I know that Ed is the most obviously handsome, but Thom was my fantasy bf), I loved the idea of him and Rachel and he seemed stoked (or as stoked as you can be when you’re Thom Yorke) when they started having kids. That’s so sad! But at the same time, they’ve been together for half their lives, and Thom doesn’t seem to be easy to live with on a daily basis, he’s been fairly open about dealing with depression and anxieties, such things will take a toll on a relationship. I won’t call him a cliché though not until I see him with a airhead bimbo while trying to leave none of his money to his ex-partner, which I don’t think will happen. If he had wanted to go the cliché route, he would have done that during the Kid A era, not now. He always (though not often) spoke of Rachel as an equal so I’m sure they somewhat amicably separated and remain on good terms for the sake of their kids.

      • InRainbows says:

        Right? I don’t think he’s a cliche at all. If he was then he would have gotten into bed with Kate Hudson when she gave him the chance. But he didn’t. Moody musical geniuses just aren’t the easiest to live with. I think Rachel was a saint because I’m sure she put up with a lot.

  3. Snazzy says:

    I agree with them both actually. I have the same feeling about books. I won’t download them for free, if I want a book, I will buy it (I never really go to the Library anymore…but I used to a lot). These creations (art, music, literature) take a lot of work and are born of imagination and perseverance, people deserve recognition for that work.

    • HK9 says:

      I do the same. Their work is of value so I pay for it. No one goes to work every day to be paid in hugs.

  4. Hadleyb says:

    I really wish people would STOP comparing things/ events whatever to Nazi’s, the holocaust or being raped.

    Sorry Sir, Google taking your music is noting like living during the Nazi era. Be lucky you can fight and say what you want, back then you would of been shot.

    They sound ignorant and its offensive.

    • SusanneToo says:

      Yeah, my first thought was “Tell that to a Holocaust survivor, Thom.” People throw around the Nazi comparison way too easily.

    • doofus says:

      yeah, the only thing that’s like what the Nazis did is…well, what the Nazis did.

      oh, and what Trump wants to do to Muslims.

    • ell says:

      he didn’t say taking his music is like living under the nazis, he says what google does is akin to what the nazis did with art during ww2 (they stole it).

      • Pinky says:

        Seriously! Reading comprehension, people!

      • Kitten says:

        He made that very clear in his comment.


        I mean, the guy is a HUGE human rights and anti-war activist–and it’s not just lip-service, he’s actually actively involved.
        Can we cut the dude some f*cking slack here?

      • Trillion says:

        That headline made me nervous NOT THOM!!! NOOOOO! But then in the post’s content, we (hopefully) see that the comparison is to Nazi’s stealing art, not murdering people.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        I agree. The Nazis did a lot of things, and if we can’t refer back to them, we can’t learn from the history of what not to do. He absolutely did not say that it feels like he is living under Nazi rule.

    • CM says:

      But he never suggests Google taking his music is like living in the Nazi era. He’s comparing the action of stealing music with what the Nazi’s (“and everyone else, even the English”) did during the war. I’m sure he probably regrets his use of ‘Nazi’ now because of the fuss – he could’ve just said “like everybody did during the second world war” – but I don’t think his point is offensive.
      Signed: a jew.

      [Edit: what @ell said]

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      The Nazis were a political party-turned-government and Google/YouTube are private companies. Just throwing that in there. If Google then went on to murder the musicians, then we could talk.

    • Kristen820 says:

      While I definitely agree with his POV on the subject (in regards to artists of any type being paid for their works), always remember the cardinal rule of the internet: Whomever brings up the Nazis first loses…

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      Ah yes, the Nazi mention. Never works. Not here, not when politicians go there.

      To the posters who said “but that’s not what he said”. I know what he said. He said that Youtube/Google are like occupational forces plundering a war torn country. STFU, Tom. We can discuss copyright laws and intellectual property, I’m in. But let’s not insult people.

      And btw, stealing was not the worst thing the Nazis did to art and artists. Just saying.

  5. grabbyhands says:

    Thom. No. Why? Why did you have to go there?

    I respect the care he has for artist’s rights and and he does have a point, but unfortunately invoking the “it’s just like the Nazis” argument undermines his cause.

    I wouldn’t put Taylor Swift in the same group as Thom Yorke-she did what she did for herself, not because she gives a damn about smaller artists. She was content to collect all the accolades and behave as if she were the single savior of small artists everywhere.

  6. msw says:

    He usually isn’t an idiot, I thought. I used to love Radiohead so much…. that’s disappointing.

  7. Allie says:

    I’m sorry- I didn’t believe Taylor Swift and I don’t believe Thom Yorke. This isn’t about the smaller artists, this is about them.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      I don’t believe Taylor for sure, but considering this man was stupid enough to make a Nazi comparison I almost believe him. Of course he defeated his own point in one ugly swoop.

    • GrnMtGirl says:

      I have trouble with both of their positions. What about radio? Regular am/fm radio. The stations are making money off of artists too, while playing their music. The only price we had to pay was listening to commercials. Not to mention… if you had a blank cassette tape, a recorder, and patience, then you had all the music free anyway. Despite that, if I loved the music, I saved my money and bought the whole album.

      I am in agreement with Dave Grohl when he said, that if your music is ‘heard’ whether it be through spotify, google, youtube, radio, and the people like it, then they will pay for it by purchasing the music, going to concerts, and buying merchandise! He’s right.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      It IS about the smaller artists, however if the smaller artists talk about it, no one listens. If a tree falls in the woods, you know? Smaller artists NEED folks like Swift and Yorke to make these points in a way that draws attention to the issue.

      The guy who co-wrote “All About the Bass” by Megan Trainor had his song streamed 150 MILLION times. He was paid $15k in streaming revenue. This is robbery. Companies aren’t including the artist when they profit off the music. This is an injustice whether it happens on a small or large scale.

  8. Nev says:

    He needs to get over himself.

  9. ell says:

    i’m a native speaker, and he doesn’t just talk about nazis, he mentions the english (and everyone really), did it as well and he’s referring to stealing art so his comment makes sense in context.

    my problem with what he says (and taylor and adele) is that i don’t disagree in theory; why does google or apple have to make money off the artists’ back? my problem is that I actually do pay for those services, so it bugs me when i can’t stream what i actually pay for. also, many artists don’t agree, because first and foremost they want to get their music out there, and services like spotify or youtube give them a platform they wouldn’t have otherwise. not all musicians have taylor or radiohead’s following.

  10. Shambles says:

    Paging LilacFlowers, looks like Thom Yorke got the message while Leo did not.

  11. AG-UK says:

    He is an odd looking guy but I still love Radiohead I can listen on repeat each song sort of brings back great memories. I saw them at the O2 fantastic.

  12. Lily says:

    Adele also hasn’t put her album on Spotify or Apple Music. It ain’t just “Swifty.”

  13. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    Don’t compare theft to Nazis. Don’t compre interviews to rape.

    Seriously, there is a way to get your point across without jumping to the most agregious example.

    Normal people don’t go “Talking on the phone was as annoying as getting cholera before they invented modern toilets”

  14. Veronica says:

    Unless the music industry results in ethnic genocide and the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians, there’s no throwing down the analogy too quickly – it shouldn’t be thrown down AT ALL.

  15. InvaderTak says:

    Dear looooord….Make it stop. Just make it stop.

    I think this broke down the issue pretty well:

    They (Swift, Adele, Thom, The Beatles, etc) aren’t standing up for anyone but themselves. They aren’t in the same marketing class as the rest of the industry, period and their grandiose statements about looking out for the small artists is utter BS.

    • Boston Green Eyes says:

      Nowadays, it really doesn’t matter – as your link states. However, in the past, musicians got ripped off ROYALLY – case in point: the Beatles. They were young, weren’t educated and lacked any business sense. So, I do get the concern about getting ripped off – but really guys, you are all lawyered up to the teeth, so please just let it go.

      • InvaderTak says:

        The whole industry sucks, and I am totally behind artists standing up for their art no matter how big they are but when the mega stars start acting like they actually have to fight for their music like the small acts do really p!sses me off. They’re using “standing up for the little guy” as a marketing strategy, while actually doing nothing practical at all to help; it’s disgusting. I haven’t heard or seen any of them recommending truly indie artists much less taking them on tour with them (all the “indie” artists people like Swift associate with are actually really far from it). It just re-enforces my already biased opinion that none of them actually know much about the industry as a whole, AS IT IS NOW (the 90′s are over York!) or care to actually find out (yes, this includes Adele). Streaming issues just seem to be the buzz topic whenever this comes up.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        It isn’t just in the past that musicians got ripped off. Being lawyered up doesn’t always help either.

        This article describes how James Taylor was owed $1,692,726 in unpaid royalties from the 3 year period of 2004-2007, and Warner ended up only paying him $97,857. Warner was fudging the books and for 1 CD, underreporting sales by 50%!!

  16. Rose says:

    I love Thom, but that analogy is wrong and cringeworthy (thank god Jonny has always been the sensible one of the group). And he really needs to cut his hair and more importantly, where is the new Radiohead album?

  17. Boston Green Eyes says:

    What an eejit. Maybe if he read books by Auschwitz survivors (like I have), he wouldn’t be so moronic to say such things.

  18. frivolity says:

    The Nazi comparison is unfortunate, but he is right that the huge corporations are making money off of the artists’ work. But, this situation is nothing new. It happens to be Google and Youtube now, but before it was all of the record companies. Artists (musicians, authors, etc.) – save for the select few who achieve a certain level of fame and who are then overcompensated – have always been and always will be screwed over by their corporate overlords. Whether the consumer buys the product or downloads it for free, this has not and will not change until something is done about corporate capitalism.

    • Fanny says:

      He is starting to come across to me as nothing more than a whining malcontent, and throwing around Nazi analogies is juvenile and stupid.

      The music industry has always been a rough place for artists to try to make money, and technology is never going to stand still so people just need to deal with it. Thom used to be one of the people trying to come up with a new model of selling music that would benefit the artists – he needs to go back to that. Preferably with his mouth shut.

  19. Margo says:

    Ugh, I love Thom’s music, but the Nazi analogy is lazy and offensive. Not surprising, however. Out of the members of the band, I usually find Jonny Greenwood the most measured and intelligent (and quietest!).

    Sad to hear he split up with Rachel, however. I always found it kind of endearing that all 5 members of Radiohead had been with their partners/spouses for so long. Atypical for rock stars.

    • Annabelle says:

      Agree with everything. There is a great interview with Jonny about his Indian-inspired album with Rolling Stone but unfortunately, everything he does or says usually gets overshadowed by Thom.

  20. lucy says:

    Actually, Thom and his band have been actively standing up for artists’ rights since before Taylor Swift was born.

    • Arpeggi says:

      Unlike TS, I don’t think Radiohead and Thom Yorke are doing this only for themselves. Taylor doesn’t care about other artists , if she did, she wouldn’t ask photographers to give away the copyright to every image taken during a TS show, that’s not helping artists. Radiohead has tried different things knowing that they now have the luxury to try different marketing avenues and that new artists can’t. They are fighting for every one.

      The Nazi comment was unfortunate and I was ready to yell at him until I saw he was refering to the plundering of art for one’s own pleasure and profits and added that many are/were guilty of such a thing (hello British Museum!). I still sort of wish something was lost in the English to Italian to English translation.

  21. InRainbows says:

    I wish Thom would choose his words more carefully next time. Reading it in the context of the interview, I can somewhat see what he means but the comparison is not doing him any favors.

  22. Katie says:

    Not even close, Thom. Not. Even. Close.

    Stop comparing things to the holocaust, period.

    • Aren says:

      He didn’t compare it to the Holocaust, he compared the theft of art done by several countries to the one being done currently by big companies.

  23. Winterberry says:

    I saw the first picture and thought “Gollum”.
    He is a little precious in his old age, that Thom Yorke.

  24. Yoda says:

    Read people cannot