IT’S been on the verge of dropping for months now, but YouTube has finally announced its new music streaming service, which could perhaps crush some of the others. What will it mean for musicians, er, content providers, especially those without corporate backing? At this point we don’t entirely know, but the group Content Creators Coalition — a group I neither belong to nor always agree with, but who are an important voice in matters like this — have released the following vote of no confidence.
They’re not the only ones: My longtime hero Billy Bragg has been quite vocal on what this would do to indie musicians and indie labels.
CCC’s board includes experimental guitarist Marc Ribot, singer John McCrea of Cake, jazz/funk bassist Melvin Gibbs, and singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash. Here’s their statement:
For years, YouTube has made revenue off of the copyrighted songs and videos of artists by placing advertising on the content. In most cases, the artists did not receive any compensation while Google and YouTube made serious money. With YouTube Music Key, YouTube has undergone minor cosmetic surgery to re-emerge as a more formidable competitor in the streaming market. As with most plastic surgery, the inherent personality problems of YouTube remain – and new issues have arisen.
YouTube has made licensing deals ahead of this announcement, but the terms of these deals with the majors and numerous indie labels – despite the original uproar over their previous attempt to strong-arm indies into nefarious agreements – remain undisclosed. What’s the difference in royalty rates to rights holders in the free tier vs. the subscription service, for example?
YouTube Music Key has also made their proprietary takedown of illegal content only available to artists and labels who make deals with them. Will takedown mean stay down for artists who do not wish to make their music available on the service? We’re not optimistic. In light of the YouTube Music Key announcement, Google’s recent attempt to lower the ranking of piracy sites in their own search results look more like a convenient way to drive listeners to Google.
According to projections by eMarketer as cited in the Billboard November bulletin <http://www.billboard.com/files/pdfs/Bulletin/november-12-2014-billboard-bulletin.pdf>, YouTube is estimated to bring in 1.13 billion in advertising this year. It’s the paradox of the digital age that even with all the data tracking muscle of Google behind YouTube, there can be so little clarity about how this revenue is supposed to reach artists. We can’t forget that the future of the music industry is not dependent on technology – it’s dependent on creative sustainability so artists can continue to generate new work.
— Sarah Manning for Content Creators Coalition
I’ll keep following this issue as it unfolds.