Islands in the Stream: The 10 Biggest Holdouts in Digital Music

Taylor Swift, Thom Yorke, Prince and the Beatles are some of the last major acts who won't stream. Here's why

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Thom Yorke, Taylor Swift
Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift are two of the biggest artists who have not allowed their music to be streamed on certain services Steve Jennings/WireImage, Christopher Polk/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Taylor Swift hates Spotify. Prince hates YouTube. Garth Brooks hates everybody (except himself and Walmart). It's hard to keep all the on-demand streaming-music holdouts straight in a world where download and CD sales are plummeting and Spotify, YouTube, Beats Music and the rest are clearly taking over the record industry. While Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, John Lennon and others have all popped up on streaming services in recent years, here are some of the more notable artists you still can't stream.

Artist: Taylor Swift
Unavailable on: Spotify
Why: Swift and her record label, Big Machine, appear to be waiting for Spotify to make her catalog available only on its paid "premium" portion. "I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music," she said shortly after her blockbuster, 1989, came out in October. Spotify has thus far refused to change. Notably, Swift's catalog (if not 1989 itself) appears on paid streaming services such as Rhapsody, Tidal and Beats Music.

Artist: Jason Aldean
Unavailable on: Spotify
Why: Because Taylor Swift did it. Well, he didn't say that, exactly: "I want everyone who is involved in making my music to be paid fairly," went his statement. But he pulled his latest, Old Boots, New Dirt, from the service two weeks after Swift made her move.

Artist: Prince
Unavailable on: YouTube
Why: Who knows? Prince has had a love-hate relationship with YouTube, posting awesome concert footage while yanking almost all the rest of his songs and albums. Conversely, his two 2014 albums are on Spotify, as is most of his classic catalog, but self-released touchstones such as Emancipation are conspicuously missing.

Artist: Garth Brooks
Unavailable on: All
Why: The country megastar is pretty much a Luddite. He refuses iTunes, YouTube (which he calls "the devil") and every other online-music service except for his own download store Ghost Tunes.

Artist: Bob Seger
Unavailable on: All
Why: Due to a longstanding dispute between Seger's management and Capitol Records, the Ramblin' Gamblin' Man does little ramblin' or gamblin' while streamin' — or downloadin', for that matter, as only a few of his albums are even on iTunes. "The record business is 50 percent of what it was 10 years ago, so they're trying to cut costs," he recently told Rolling Stone. "Until that's resolved, we let very little out."

Artist: Tool
Unavailable on: All
Why: Frontman Maynard James Keenan is a physical-media purist, having never allowed his Nineties alt-metal powerhouse's catalog on iTunes or any streaming service. Digital music, he told the Phoenix New Times in 2013, is "just this disconnected thing that you can't touch and feel and experience." His longtime side project Puscifer, however, is available everywhere.

Artist: King Crimson
Unavailable on: All
Why: Robert Fripp, guitarist for the prog-rock heroes, has criticized labels for unfair digital-music payments, and Crimson was a longtime iTunes holdout until recently. You still won't find In the Court of the Crimson King or Red on any streaming service.

Artist: Pete Townshend
Unavailable on: All
Why: Townshend believes iTunes is a "digital vampire" and hasn't changed course in the streaming era. Fortunately, his day-job band lives and streams.

Artist: Thom Yorke
Unavailable on: All (mostly)
Why: Yorke famously called Spotify "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse," which translates to "no solo Yorke, Atoms for Peace or In Rainbows on streaming services." But the albums Yorke doesn't control — including most of Radiohead's catalog — are available.

Artist: The Beatles
Unavailable on: All
Why: They're the Beatles. When they're ready to stream, you'll know. In the meantime, would you like some nice Beatles Recovered Band?

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