Many of you may have heard the recent news that the internet’s most popular time-waster, YouTube, has recently announced their plans to launch a music streaming service a la spotify, rdio, pandora et al. What you may not already know is that in terms of views/hits, YouTube, is technically already the world’s most popular music streaming service by some measure.
As an avid “music appreciator” (read “snob“) I often use YouTube as a first point of call when discovering new music. No matter how big or small the act, you can guarantee they will have at least something on YouTube to wet the whistle. Of course, these are not always through the artists themselves, nor their representatives (in a lot of cases they are). I view streaming music through YouTube as a gateway to a more legal means of music appreciation, whether it be through one of the aforementioned streaming services or seeking out the band’s bandcamp website and purchasing it directly.
YouTube representatives recently started negotiations with independent record labels over licensing agreements in relation to the new streaming service, and has come under fire for what many feel is a severe under-pricing of independent artistic material. Of course independent artists are free to tell YouTube to get knotted, but in a move reminiscent of some sort of futuristic e-dictatorship YouTube have threatened to block content from anyone who doesn’t agree with their fee structure. Meaning that any music on the general YouTube video site that isn’t part of the streaming services licensing agreement will be blocked. Not only that, but they’ll stop paying advertising revenue to labels whose songs feature in video ads on the site. Toys out of the pram.
Now I’m not saying that YouTube should just continue their current model. There is a demand from artists and record labels to generate new revenue streams to fit with the shift in the industry to a more streaming based system, leaving CDs and downloads on the trash heap. And who better to do it than YouTube? More people already use YouTube than all the other streaming services combined. But using strong arm tactics on independent record labels seems to be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Independent artists may have once been able to be bullied, because frankly nobody cared if they heard them or not. Not so these days. Thanks to technology and D.I.Y attitudes, some of the biggest bands in the world fall into the category of “independent artists”. Radiohead release their own albums for free for pete’s sake!
If YouTube don’t want the best content available on their service…then people will just listen to it on something else. Small artists starting out will know this too and will see that their content goes where people can hear it, for better pay.
I guess you have to ask if an indie band plays on YouTube and no one is around to hear it….does it make a sound?
Nathan Mullins is an Assistant Accountant and Head of Waste Management at BCM