Youtube: Indie Artists Fight Back
Youtube announced earlier this week that it was prepared to remove (from both its free and subscription service) any indie label or artists that refused to sign-up to its new streaming service. All artists who didn’t join the as-yet named service would be effectively blacklisted and Youtube would begin removing their videos within days. However, the fight with indie artists isn’t over.
Robert Kyncl, Youtube Head of Content & Business Operations told the US Financial Times that 95% of the music industry have signed up to the deal, with a further 5% unhappy with the terms. That includes artists such as Adele, The Arctic Monkeys and Jack White (source).
“While we wish that we had 100% success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience,” said Kyncl.
However, it seems Youtube may have cut off its nose to spite its face with independent licensing agency Merlin estimating that indie artists collectively account for a 32.6% market share of music sales & streams. Alison Wenham from WIN (Worldwide Independent Network) trade association told the UK Guardian newspaper that Youtube “have suffered a simple but catastrophic error of judgement in misreading the market,” and that it was “setting itself up for failure” with only a handful of indie artists signing up to the deal.
“We have tried and will continue to try to help YouTube understand just how important independent music is to any streaming service and why it should be valued accordingly. Music fans want a service that offers the complete range of music available. This is something that companies such as Spotify and Deezer do, both of whom have excellent relationships with the independent music sector,” she said.
Earlier this month Wenham organised a press conference to protest the move by Youtube at which Billy Bragg said: “I don’t know why they’ve opened this hornet’s nest right now, apart from corporate hubris. I don’t think they realise what a stupid thing they’ve done.”
Bragg compared the monolithic online platform to ‘Big Brother’ saying: “Rather than a huge boot stamping on a human face forever, it’s a corporation that changes its logo every week.”
WIN have filed a complaint with the European commission over what Wenham describes as “threats, intimidation and bullying” from Youtube and it’s parent company Google.
Today the Music Producers Guild have publicly announced it’s lending its support to Independent record labels as they battle for a better deal for continued access to YouTube’s online video platform.
In a statement issued today, the MPG board says:
“With regards to the recent dispute between YouTube and independent labels and the unfavourable terms which YouTube seeks, without negotiation, to impose upon independent record labels, the Music Producers Guild is deeply concerned about Google’s apparent abuse of its monopoly and associated market power and the adverse effect this will have on the wider industry and funds available for innovative and creative content production in the future.
“Independent record producers everywhere, in common with recording artists, rely upon the income from sales and streaming of music files, the production of which they have been responsible, often with little or no credit (itself ironic in this digital age). Attempts by international media conglomerates to throttle negotiation and impose unfavourable and unjust terms upon independent record companies, whom they perceive to be “small fry” and thus “fair game”, should be opposed at every opportunity.”
So the battle-lines are drawn and time will tell if Youtube make good on their threats to remove (and blacklist) those indie artists who hold out. It will be interesting to see if the European Commission involves itself in the dispute, or whether Youtube’s threats un-ravel in a court of law. We’ll keep you updated.
Things look like they aren’t as dire as we initially thought. Youtube have confirmed that only a few video’s will be removed, not the mass deletion we were expecting (source).
The video’s that will be deleted are only those from artists and labels that have already partnered with Youtube and refuse to sign-on to the streaming service, because Youtube will no longer hold a license to host those videos. This means that only videos from ‘official channels’ who monetise their Youtube content (and refuse to sign the new terms), will be removed. Often the ‘official channel’s only contain acoustic sets, live performances, and the like, with music videos being hosted via the Vevo channel. As Youtube is an open platform those artists can also re-upload their content, but no longer receive any ad revenue (as it requires partnering with Youtube). The BBC have reported that channels such as Vevo will not have any videos removed, which means those videos (even from banned labels) will remain, right where they are.
In short the deal allows users to partner with Youtube in both their advertising revenue and streaming service, with the new deal being better than the previously offered terms. Why this has WIN and other vocal artists so up in arms is due to the Youtube undervaluing the artists, with rates not as favourable as those offered by Spotify, etc. Although it has to be said that Youtube is a much larger platform with the potential to bring artists an even greater audience (and a lot more revenue).
If you’re interested in reading the entirety of the new terms, Digital Music News have uploaded it to their site, here.
This article was updated on 25/06/2014 to include further information.