How Gotye took the noble route out of fame – and made a dead man millions

Gotye was behind 2011’s biggest banger – but where is he now? (Picture: YouTube/gotyemusic)

Gotye’s synthy pop sensation Somebody That I Used to Know soundtracked 2011. If you don’t think you know it, you have definitely heard it.

The Art Attack-esque intro and pained lyrics about a failed relationship proved the catchiest hit of the decade, and Gotye rocketed to number 1 in over 23 national charts. The seemingly Picasso-inspired music video is also etched into our cultural memory forever and creeps into many a millennial’s playlist 13 years on.

But since then, we’ve heard nothing from the Belgium-born singer, now 44. So whatever happened to Gotye?

It turns out Gotye – real name Wouter De Backer – took a noble route out of the limelight, but is still making music; albeit for a fraction of the earnings he could have bagged continuing to release under the famous Gotye moniker.

Instead of following up 2011’s Making Mirrors with another album and raking in millions, Gotye re-joined his old band The Basics – an Australian trio he enjoys making music with still – and went from world famous to humble musician by his own accord.

His determination to do what is right for him – and not what is tempting – seems somewhat of a theme for Gotye.

The star could have made millions from the song through YouTube ads, but chose not to (Picture: YouTube/gotyemusic)

He found huge success, but chose to step back from the limelight (Picture: Rick Diamond/WireImage)

Before releasing Somebody That I Used To Know, Gotye reportedly made a deal with the estate of late South American musician Luis Bonfa in order to use a sample for the chart-topping single.

According to Complex, the guitar hook taken from Bonfa’s song Seville awarded the deceased’s estate 45% of the royalties. As the record netted over 13million sales, the publication report Bonfa became very rich in death as Gotye’s sample made him over £1million.

It would be fair to assume then – with the remaining 55% of the profits split with Kimbra, who also appeared on the track – Gotye swam in seas of profit from his catchy track for years to come.

Except, this isn’t Gotye’s style. In 2017 Gotye explained in a rare interview how he is against making money on YouTube adverts. Indeed, if you watch his famous music video on the streaming site, it does not have any commercials – and he’s losing money for it. On purpose.

Having amassed 2.29billion views on YouTube since its release, Somebody That I Used to Know could have earnt Gotye millions of dollars. (For context Adele’s Someone Like You, released in the same year, has 2.20billion views at the time of wriring. That’s how big it was.)

In 2014, Forbes reported that at 2billion views, Psy’s catchy dance anthem Gangnam Style had made just under $2million from YouTube ads. Gotye could have done the same.

‘I’m not interested in selling my music,’ Gotye told six years after the hit song’s release.

He’s been performing and releasing music with his band The Basics (Picture: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns via Getty Images)

‘That’s the reason I don’t put ads on my You Tube channel, which seems strange to people in today’s climate, but that is a decision you can make. I’m like that with all my music. I generally never want to synch my music for products (on ads).

‘Ads are calling for our attention anywhere we turn in the world. If you can do something you care about and that other people care about and keep it out that world that feels like it’s all about “hey buy this stuff” then that’s a good thing.’

He continued: ‘I don’t mind synching my music with creative projects like TV or film. I’ve got my own set of rules I made, if a student film wants to use my film I say yes across the board, there’s no money involved.

‘If someone wants to use it commercially I look at what the budget is and the creativity of the project.’

Instead, Gotye sings and plays the drums for The Basics.

In the same interview, his bandmate Kris Schroeder was quick to defend the singer against folk online who have been known to joke about the pop sensation being ‘Somebody That We Used to Know’.

‘He’s got a lot of inner strength but I know it must cut him,’ Kris said, while describing Gotye’s fame as a ‘blessing and a curse’ in that it gets people interested in them, but sometimes may put them off.

As for Gotye himself, one of the things he’s ‘most grateful for’ is that the success of Somebody That I Used To Know allowed him to make all his creative projects possible.

As well as releasing music with The Basics, Gotye has also launched two record labels – Forgotten Futures and Spirit Level – and championed the work of French electronic music pioneer, Jean-Jacques Perrey, who died in 2016 aged 87.

Good news for fans, as Gotye is working on his fourth album. But he said that in 2017, so it’s anyone’s guess when we might hear this.

In 2021, The Basics announced in a ‘happy if melancholy goodbye’ that they were retiring from touring, but had music still in the works.

‘There are still so many places we wanted to go and people we’d like to meet, but with two young families and a medical career between us (not to mention two solo projects and a live music venue on top of this!), there’s just this sense that it was time to draw a line in the sand,’ the band wrote on Facebook.

‘Plans keep getting brought up and then quickly dashed, and it just seems fair to make it clear both to you guys and to ourselves.’

They then explained how they would not play a final show or announce a farewell tour, so not to capitalise on the news.

‘We’ve always tried to be as genuine as possible, and so with respect to our decision have no such finale to offer,’ they said.

‘Hopefully in years to come when all the kids are grown up we can play again. And of course we look forward to bringing you a new Basics record at some stage, plus new stuff from Wally and Kris.’

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