Yak on The Moon and More on Streaming

Yak on The Moon

In 2015 Yak released the track Smile twice, once as a B side and once as a stand-alone digital "single" and it was one of the highlights of A Best of 2015 on The Moon. It is also a highlight of their recently released debut album, and like a few recent debut albums, it does not quite manage to sustain the brilliance of their pre-album releases.  But those pre-album releases were at a very high standard; the A sides are high quality and XFM friendly indie rock but the B sides like Smile, Distortion and Out on a Limb marked them out as something special.

The album does have the same ambition and diversity of sound and all their releases together do make an amazing playlist. They remind me of the best bits of early Radiohead, but with Julian Cope as the lead singer. Check it out via Spotify below.

Their producer is Steve Mackey of Pulp fame and three of the tracks were first released by Jack White's Third Man Records. Strangely the "No" EP is available to stream on Spotify, Deezer and I presume Apple Music, Tidal and Google Music but not on Groove Music. The lead track and Out on a Limb are not on the album and, as far as I can tell, the only place they can be downloaded individually is iTunes. On Google Play you have to download all three tracks for £2.99. Thus, for a Groove subscriber to legally download these tracks individually, they would have to download iTunes first. Mr White has issues with his music on streaming services but it is hard to comprehend how Third Man are sticking it to the man in this case.

The stance of Radiohead does at least make sense as their new album is only not currently streamable on Spotify and Deezer, the two services that allow free listening with adverts. It is on Groove, Tidal, Apple Music and I presume Google Music and is not exclusive to iTunes as a download. Believing that the free tier of streaming is unsustainable is understandable, but a BBC survey has found that 45% vinly buyers check out the music on a streaming service first, just as before I become a streaming subscriber, I would check out stuff on Spotify before I decided to then pay for a download. Radiohead do have less to gain from allowing fans to check out their album first as they have built a large and loyal fanbase on whom they can rely on to buy their latest album, however coma inducing it might be, safe in the knowledge that they will soon revert back OK Computer in their iTunes library.

The exclusivity of the likes of Beyonce and Drake on Tidal and Apple Music in on another level altogether. Tidal is the streaming equivalent Sky TV and the strap line  for both should not be "believe in better" but "believe you are better".

As Ben Chu in the Independent has pointed out the music business has to be re-distributive, they might not have always been very successful but they do need more hits than misses to succeed and many now see free streaming as a key tool in breaking new artists and sustaining established ones, as even Radiohead's record company want the new album on the free services. It is also good to see that Spotify and Deezer are not bowing to pressure to only allow paying subscribers access some content. I do hope they do win out and the model is sustainable in the long term. We don't want end up with more exclusivity and fragmentation.

What is annoying is record companies pulling early material from new artists just as the debut album is about to be released, as has happened with Wolf  Alice, Misty Miller and now Black Honey. It is not great to have your collection at the mercy of such whims, including no longer being able to stream Pop is Dead Radiohead's finest moment with the immortal lines "Oh no, pop is dead. It just gave up. It died an ugly death, by back catalogue."


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