US trade body A2IM’s annual Indie Week is coming at a sensitive time this year, given the hubbub around YouTube’s new music service and licensing of independents in general. President Rich Bengloff certainly isn’t shirking the debate, judging by a combative interview with Billboard yesterday. “We are treated equitably and fairly by Rdio, Spotify, Rhapsody and about 20 other services, but obviously not YouTube,” said Bengloff, before getting stuck into the way one major label in particular licenses streaming services. “Universal Music makes the per-stream rate as low as they possibly can so they have to give the artist very little money. Then, on top of that, they have something called a ‘listener hour guarantee,’ which they know is going to up their compensation by about 40% – since it’s per listener hour, not per track, the artist gets screwed because it’s not attributable to a track, so the artist doesn’t get a royalty. That’s not fair, that’s not the way we do business. The third thing they do is get a minimum annual guarantee or an advance if they know the service isn’t going to reach that level of business and be able to recoup – it’s what’s called [digital] breakage and they also don’t share that with the artists.” Indies vs majors is a familiar argument, but the specific nature of Bengloff’s complaints reflects wider unrest in 2014 among the independent community over licensing.

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